What is a Federally Qualified Health Center?

What is a Federally Qualified Health Center?

A Federally Qualified Health Center’s (FQHC) mission is to provide high quality, comprehensive care for individuals and families regardless of their ability to pay.

FQHCs are community owned, nonprofit businesses governed by a board of directors comprised of area volunteers. FQHCs receive a federal grant under Section 300 of the Public Health Service Act. FQHCs serve medically underserved areas with few or no healthcare providers and with many low income and uninsured people.

At FQHCs, payment for services is based on the patients’ ability to pay. Patients are charged on a sliding fee scale to ensure income or lack of insurance is not a barrier to health and dental care.

Medicare, MaineCare and private insurance are billed to those with coverage.

At FQHCs care is provided through a team-oriented approach, using medical and dental professionals to ensure patients get the care they need when they need it.

FQHCs are strongly linked to the communities they serve. They work with other public and private health services to coordinate resources for effective patient care.

FQHCs contribute to the strength and well-being of their community. By keeping children healthy, health centers enable them to stay in school and train for the future to become responsible members of the community. By keeping employees healthy, health centers reduce absenteeism and help workers remain productive citizens.

FQHCs are economically beneficial to the communities they serve. They employ staff from the communities in which they are located and often attract other investment to the area.

FQHCs are here to help you and your family get the health care you need whether or not you can afford to pay totally for the services you receive.

Here’s how Maine’s FQHC are making an impact:

  • Maine’s federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) provide care to medically underserved areas where healthcare access is otherwise limited or non-existent especially for those who are uninsured, underserved or have MaineCare coverage. FQHCs include health care for the homeless sites and care for Maine’s migrant workers and their families.
  • FQHCs are non-profit healthcare providers, governed by a patient-majority board to ensure that the patient voice remains heard and plays a critical role in guiding health center operations. Because of this key hallmark, FQHCs are often called community health centers (CHCs) and we use the terms on this site interchangeably.
  • FQHC is a federal designation from the Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) which is assigned to private non-profit or public health care organizations which serve predominantly uninsured or medically underserved populations.
  • FQHCs provide an income-based sliding-fee scale to patients for their out of pocket costs. The scale, determined by the community board, factors in family size as well as income, and exists to reduce barriers to primary care.
  • Over 160,000 or one-in-eight residents in Maine receive care at a FQHC annually. For a glimpse of the value of this care to our underserved areas and populations, we invite you to read Faces of Maine’s Safety Net, a collection of individual patient accounts.
  • FQHCs provide comprehensive primary care that includes both behavioral health and oral health, either directly on site, or by referral.
  • FQHCs are recognized at the state and national level for the quality of care offered and the overall cost savings they provide to the healthcare system. Through informing and empowering patients to actively manage their own health, health centers have reduced the number of costly visits to burdened hospital emergency departments.

Making an Impact

Maine residents have benefited from a number of FQHC achievements which have enhanced the quality of care provided at health centers, including:

  • Increasing access to dental care in Maine’s medically underserved areas by over 450% over five years, bringing into existence 47 new operatories, 16 dentists and 21 hygienists across the state, providing access to all patients whether they are on Medicaid or are uninsured.
  • Breaking down barriers and the stigma associated with mental health services while introducing coordination of care between the primary care provider and the behavioral health provider. Nearly all FQHCs (94%) provide mental health treatment on site.
  • Investing in high quality, patient-centered care, widely implementing the Care Model and partnering with local and statewide allies to enrich the team approach and improve health. As a result, FQHCs save MaineCare more than $3 for every dollar invested in CHCs.
  • Providing $8.7 million in total costs of uncompensated care to uninsured patients in 2005*, and an additional $1.6 million of enabling services (case management, patient education and outreach).

*See the Urban Institute’s Cost of Caring for Uninsured People in Maine, 2007