First posted 8/09/11 on Health Populi
As the recession drags on and millions of people in the U.S. lack health insurance, there’s a community resource that extends primary care to them that’s not in a doctor’s office: it’s in Community Health Centers (CHCs). There are over 8,000 CHCs throughout the U.S., and 20 million people use them as medical homes — providing 25% of all primary care visits for low-income people in America.
At the same time, there are 60 million people in the U.S. who do not have access to primary care due to the maldistribution and shortage of primary care providers (PCPs). Access Endangered: Profiles of the Medically Disenfranchised, a report published by the National Association of Community Health Centers, details the growing challenge of filling the gap between the limited supply of PCPs and growing demand for their services.
The most convenient place for medically disenfranchised people to gain access to primary care is in the most expensive, if accessible, health provider setting: the closest emergency room.
The fact is that funding for Community Health Centers is scaling back, due to Congress’s recent reduction in the Health Centers Program midway through FY2011. This action, combined with the fiscal fact that other funding sources at the state and federal levels are threatened due to the economy and debt discussion, endangers CHC patients’ access to health care.