Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Health Overhaul Could Double Community Health Centers' Caseload - Kaiser Health News

By Michelle Andrews

Community health centers serve 20 million people every year, and that number is expected to double by 2015, thanks to an $11 billion infusion from the health-care overhaul and $2 billion in federal stimulus funds.

If you're a middle-income worker with health insurance through your job, chances are these centers have been under your radar, since their target clients are low-income and uninsured people. But as the number of uninsured has risen to 50 million, more people than ever are struggling to get and pay for health care, and community health centers are an affordable option. As they expand, they're adding new services and new locations nationwide.

Although their mission is to provide a primary-care safety net for people in underserved areas, no one is ever turned away from a community health center. People with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($44,700 for a family of four in 2011) pay on a sliding scale; uninsured people with higher incomes pay the full cost of care, which is generally comparable to costs in the private sector. The centers accept Medicaid and Medicare in addition to many private insurance plans.
The new health care law is full of incentives to encourage doctors to provide "medical homes" for their patients, with coordinated care and close patient monitoring to stay on top of necessary preventive services. But community health centers have always taken this approach, say experts.
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