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Cost Effectiveness of Community Health Centers

Of the approximately 56 million medically uninsured Americans, about 1 in 5 use community health centers (CHCs) as their medical home. National studies have shown that dollars invested in community health centers saves on Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance, improves access to primary care for the uninsured and reduces emergency room visits and hospital stays. The following list provides a summary on cost effectiveness studies performed and their findings. 

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  1. The Effect of Community Health Centers on Healthcare Spending & Utilization, Sonya Reeter, Shamonda Braithwaite, Nardal Packchi, and Michael Johnsrud, September 2009.
  • Study was a literature review of literature review of studies that examined the impact of Community Health Centers(CHCs) on healthcare spending and utilization. Nearly all of the studies we examined found that the use of CHCs was associated with lower healthcare costs or less acute care utilization. The estimated impact of CHCs, combined with their emphasis on effective provision of primary care, has led some policymakers to discuss them as an example of the patient-centered medical home initiative. The study revealed two studies used the estimated per-patient savings to extrapolate a national savings associated with CHC use, finding that CHCs save between $9.9 and $24 billion annually. Six studies focused exclusively on avoidable utilization and found that CHCs help patients, especially those with chronic conditions, to avoid unnecessary complications and acute care treatment.
  1. Hadley J and Cunningham P. “Availability of Safety Net Providers and Access to Care of Uninsured Persons.” October 2004.
  • Study analyzed access to safety net services in 60 randomly selected and nationally representative communities. The authors found that uninsured people living within close proximity to a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) are less likely to have an unmet medical need; less likely to have postponed or delayed seeking needed care; are more likely to have had a general medical visit and are less likely to have visited an emergency room, or stay in a hospital compared to other uninsured.
  1. Porterfield D.S. and Kinsinger L. “Quality of Care for Uninsured Patients with Diabetes in a Rural Area.” Diabetes Care. 25(2): 319-23, 2002, Feb.
  • Porterfield and Kinsinger compared quality of care for uninsured patients with diabetes in private physician’s offices and community/migrant health centers (C/MHC) by conducting a cross sectional medical record review in a convenience sample of eight physician offices and three C/MHC sites in rural North Carolina. They found that the medical records of patients in C/MHCs demonstrated higher rates on four of six process measures of quality of care including measurement of HbA (1c), cholesterol, and urine protein.