Sometimes the greatest innovations in health care happen right in our own communities. Fifty years ago, one of those innovations took root in two clinics – one in the Mississippi Delta and one in South Boston, Massachusetts. These clinics, started as demonstration projects of the Health Center Program, offered high quality primary care to all patients, regardless of their ability to pay.
Fifty years later, 1,300 health centers operate 9,000 sites nationwide and serve Americans in every state. In fact, one out of every fourteen people living in the United States received health care from a health center in their community last year. Health centers play a critical role in our health care system.
They open the doors to that system for millions of Americans. Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, health centers have helped more than 10 million people learn about their options for health coverage, and how to enroll in coverage. As a result of their work, health centers have seen a significant drop in the percent of uninsured patients getting care at their facilities.
We need to support this high quality, community-centered care. That’s why the Department of
Health and Human Services announced $169 million in Affordable Care Act funding for 266 new health center sites in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, increasing access to health care services for approximately 1.2 million additional patients. With these resources, our nation’s health centers can continue to improve the lives of families in rural and urban communities.
Here in Arizona, these new funds mean that eight Arizona community health centers will receive grant funds that will enable them to serve an additional 42,389 Arizonans in medically underserved areas of the state.
Health centers don’t just connect millions of Americans with health care. They also improve the healthcare delivery. Thanks to their work and the tools provided by the Affordable Care Act, we are transforming our health care system into one that works for all people, no matter where they live.
Health centers play a crucial role in putting the consumer in the center of their care. Across the country, 92 percent have adopted Electronic Health Records, improved integrate primary care services, and many have earned patient-centered medical home status, one of the most promising models of coordinated care centered on a patient’s needs.
Health Centers do this great work for a simple reason. When we put educated and empowered patients in the center of their care, we get better outcomes and we strengthen our health care system.
With the help of health centers, we can get more people covered, and we can help empower them to take control of their care and live healthier lives.
For half a century, the Health Center Program has changed and grown, but at its core it has had one priority: giving our friends and neighbors the building blocks they need to live healthy, productive lives. Arizona is stronger and our communities are healthier because of the work they do.
— Melissa Stafford Jones is the Region IX Director for the United States Department of Health and Human Services. @HHSRegion9
— John C. McDonald is the CEO of the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers http://www.aachc.org/