And so does the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA): the health care reform law will provide $11 billion between 2011 and 2015 to support and expand operations of community health centers.
What exactly are Community Health Centers and how do they help our communities stay healthy?
Community health centers (CHCs) provide affordable, culturally-competent comprehensive primary and preventive health care services to low-income individuals living in medically underserved areas. In practice, this means that a community health center may be the only health care provider accessible to those in our community who most need care.
Community health centers receive specific federal funding to provide free or low-cost services, including reproductive health services like cancer screenings and contraception. Studies show that CHCs play a pivotal role in providing essential reproductive health care for low-income women, including prenatal care, mammograms and Pap tests. Community health centers provide care regardless of one’s ability to pay, immigration status, or primary language. They are often governed by a community board, whose membership is at least half composed of health center patients themselves and understand the community’s needs.
In 2010, approximately 1,100 federally-funded community health centers provided care to 19.5 million Americans. Latinos represent over one-third of all CHC patients and in 2009, 865,000 patients at these centers were migrant and seasonal farmworkers, many of them Latinas. In the new health reform law, $9.5 billion will go to create new CHCs in medically underserved areas as well as expand the types of health services provided at these centers. $1.5 billion will go to enhance infrastructure at existing community health centers.
Why is this funding so important for our community?
With millions of Americans living without health care insurance, there is a dire need for more community health centers to provide essential primary and preventive health care services. Among all racial and ethnic groups, Latinos have the highest health care uninsurance rates. We also know that Latinas disproportionately suffer from conditions and diseases such as cervical cancer and HIV/AIDS among others, so increasing the reach of CHCs will improve access to preventive health services and may begin to reduce health disparities. And finally, as undocumented immigrants and permanent residents who have had that status for five years or less will continue to be ineligible for Medicaid, community health centers will continue to play a unique role on providing quality care regardless of immigration status.
For more information about Community Health Centers,please check out NLIRH’s fact sheet, Medicaid and Community Health Centers Threatened with Funding Cuts: What is really at stake for Latinas and Immigrant Communities?
Photo Credit: Health Center Data: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Uniform Data System, 2009. National Data: U.S. Census Bureau, 2008 Current Population Reports. http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2010/08/increasing-access.html