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Community Health Centers in an Era of Health Reform: An Overview and Key Challenges to Health Center Growth

Over 1,100 federally funded community health centers play a vital role in ensuring access to health care for a predominantly low-income population in medically underserved communities. Health centers’ ability to provide comprehensive primary care and improve access to high-quality care while holding down health care cost growth has been well-documented. As health reform spurs coverage expansion and efforts to improve quality, the nation’s reliance on health centers is likely to grow.

In the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Congress invested $11 billion over five years to expand the health center program, to broaden access to care in lower-income communities as coverage expands. As policymakers and others gear up for ACA implementation, understanding the role of health centers and the characteristics of the people they serve is increasingly important. This brief provides a current snapshot of health centers and discusses recent developments that can be expected to have a significant impact on health center growth in the coming years.

Issue Brief (.pdf)

Executive Summary (.pdf)

Related: Medicaid and Community Health Centers: The Relationship Between Coverage for Adults and Primary Care Capacity in Medically Underserved Communities