A Public Option: Non-Profit Primary Care

Map of FQHC's Courtesy (courtesy of raconline.org/maps)

Map of FQHC's Courtesy (courtesy of raconline.org/maps)

Federally Qualified Health Centers are non-profit, community directed, primary care health centers funded under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act passed in 1946. They are supported by the US HHS Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA). HRSA describes the main goal of these health centers as:

Federally-funded health centers care for you, even if you have no health insurance. You pay what you can afford, based on your income. Health centers provide:

  • checkups when you’re well
  • treatment when you’re sick
  • complete care when you’re pregnant
  • immunizations and checkups for your children
  • dental care and prescription drugs for your family
  • mental health and substance abuse care if you need it

Bob Herbert of the New York Times visits one such center providing essential care in Vermont:

Nearly 10,000 patients are served by the Plainfield center, which is a godsend because there are no other primary care physicians in the vicinity, and very few dentists in private practice will treat poor patients, who usually are covered by Medicaid.

When you look at the number of people who are served by these health centers nationally and then look at the number still in need of the services, you begin to get a sense of the scope of the crisis in health care in the U.S. The centers currently serve about 20 million people and receive approximately $2 billion a year from the federal government. It is estimated that another 40 million people in medically under served areas, primarily rural areas and inner cities, need the services a health center would provide.

Senator Sanders and Representative James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, are sponsoring legislation (as part of the current push for health care reform) that would quadruple the number of centers across the country over the next five years.

via Op-Ed Columnist – Hard to Believe! – NYTimes.com.

This is one of the publicly supported options currently available that is not being discussed due to focus on the antics of angry tea-baggers, birthers, deathers and angry right wingers. The more folks that have access to these centers, the less people that may develop emergency and/or catastrophic conditions from neglected common maladies.

These are sorely needed and would probably be at the hearr heart of a healthy publicly funded health care option. A few hundred people may have gone to town halls to decry socialist programs, birth certificates, Pelosi and Obama, but thousands of working poor wait in lines for Remote Area Medical’s (RAM) weekends no cost health clinics. Just under 300 volunteers are required to run a weekend “expedtion” expedition which serves much of the same clientelle as FQHCs. In 2007 RAM served 17 thousand plus people a budget of 250,000 dollars a year. Thousands more were turned away for lack of time. Video from a 60 minutes story on RAM here:

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