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Kristina Wharton: More Funding Needed to Support FQHCs

M. Kristina Wharton, MPH, of the Department of Global Health Management and Policy at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, recommends shifts in policies that could expand federally qualified health centers.

M. Kristina Wharton, MPH, of the Department of Global Health Management and Policy at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, recommends shifts in policies that could expand federally qualified health centers.


What policies do you think could expand the safety net role that federally qualified health centers play?

Thankfully, there has been bipartisan support and increasing funding and different programs and different tests to see how the health center program can grow and expand and better meet this need that persists, unfortunately. So, the community health center fund was the big one that came out of the Affordable Care Act and before that there was additional expansion and funding, they did capital health funding for health centers, then even before that before the recession there was expansion money for new access sites so I would say, continuing that additional funding which I believe congress just did support the continuation of the health center funding, which is fabulous.

Also thinking about how Medicaid expansion in states that didn’t expand it might affect some of these health centers because they do get reimbursed if they have an enhanced reimbursement for Medicaid. So, that does help them if their payer mix is a little more balanced. It helps them serve more uninsured patient population if they have more people with insurance to balance that out but they make it either way.

Then, there’s also been interesting funding out of CMS that providing demonstration projects to health centers to become patient centered medical homes, for example. There’s the advanced care primary practice demonstration. And some other quality improvement tests that there’s been funding for because health centers have been very under resourced and usually really understaffed. I worked in one for a very long time and people they are very creative and able to do a lot with very little money. But I think thinking about improving the quality and services they provide, providing access points where there is need and giving the opportunity to grow and meet, we know that demand is growing, see how they can meet that need best and that takes a little bit of funding and resources and nuance. Any support [Health Resources and Services Administration] could give or CMS can give through different reimbursement strategies and testing that out would be my recommendation.

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