Thursday, January 26, 2017

Health Centers are a local solution to the national challenge of access to primary care

Ohio’s Community Health Centers deliver stability for patients in a changing health system. That stability rests on two key pillars: targeted federal investments and a strong Medicaid program.  As a direct result of the extension of Medicaid in Ohio, Community Health Centers have:  

Invested in more patient capacity through a greater number of locations, expanded hours of operation, and higher staffing levels for clinicians and other personnel 
  • Been actively serving more and more patients impacted by the Opioid epidemic Expanded health care capacity in areas of the state where access to primary care is lacking  
  • Created more jobs in areas of desperate need  
  • Generated more capacity to provide true Patient Centered Medical Homes
  •  Been actively serving more and more patients impacted by the Opioid epidemic 
  • Allowed for better patient-to-clinician ratios across all specialties, which shortens wait times and generates a greater range of specialized care offered under one roof, such as oral and behavioral health services that are frequently in short supply in our medically underserved communities
Over the last six years, Ohio’s Medicaid Program has transformed lives. Through integration and efficiency upgrades, services are improving and taxpayers are seeing value.  Retaining these important strides will maximize the reforms that have taken place and are underway.

Additionally, as more Ohioans have gained health insurance coverage, Community Health Centers have been the frontline responders in addressing challenges of access to care and emerging public health challenges. Services reach beyond the walls of the exam room to address underlying factors that may cause them, such as poor nutrition, mental health problems, homelessness, unsafe environmental conditions or substance abuse disorders – all while keeping the cost of care low. Health Centers save on average $2,371 (24%) in total spending per Medicaid patient when compared to other providers (American Journal of Public Health) and generate $24B in savings to the health care system every year by efficiently managing and treating chronic disease, keeping people out ERs where care is costlier, and avoiding unnecessary hospitalizations – even among the most economically challenged populations. 

 As Congress begins this significant work, we specifically ask: 
  1. Work with Community Health Centers on solutions. Health Centers bring a local perspective to national debates. Congress should build on the success of Community Health Centers in any reform effort.    
  2. Support the “two pillars” of the Health Center system of care: sustained investment in the Section 330 Grant Program, and a strong Medicaid program that works for health centers and their patients.   
  3. Do not put Health Center patients’ coverage at risk. Health Centers are concerned about efforts to make changes to insurance coverage without a clear, sustainable plan for continuity of both coverage and access to care for those we serve.   

Everyone needs a place to go for care; Health Centers are a local solution to the national challenge of access to primary care.