Policy Issues

Investing in community health centers.

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It is clear that expanding the role of Community Health Centers would benefit millions and millions of people. It is also a good deal for all of America. The numbers speak for themselves.

Community Health Centers have actually improved health outcomes and lowered the costs of treating patients with chronic illnesses, and have compiled a remarkable record of achievement in providing care of superior quality, with exceptional cost-effectiveness and efficiency. Their costs of care rank among the lowest, and they reduce the need for more expensive emergency room, hospital in-patient and specialty care. Both the Institute of Medicine and the General Accountability Office have recognized Community Health Centers as effective models for reducing health disparities and for managing the care of people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and HIV; and the White House Office of Management and Budget has ranked them as one of the 10 most effective government programs. The American Academy of Family Physicians’ Robert Graham Center recently found that the total cost of care for health center patients is 41% lower annually than the total cost of care for individuals served by other providers. Community Health Centers serve as living proof that providing high-quality, continuous care to people and communities without adequate sources of health care improves health outcomes, narrows health disparities, and generates significant savings to the health care system – up to $18 billion last year alone – while bringing much-needed economic benefits to the low income communities they serve. Once health centers reach the ACCESS goal of serving 30 million patients by 2015, the cost savings they generate for the health care system will double to $40 billion annually.


An expansion of Community Health Centers would quickly address the needs of the underserved and be a critical step in transforming the nation’s health delivery system. Health centers improve the health of the patients and communities they serve by providing cost-effective, primary and preventive health services that translate into reduced hospitalizations, lower use of emergency rooms, and fewer referrals to specialists -- reducing overall health care spending and producing positive health care outcomes. As a result, pressure on local emergency rooms will be reduced, saving taxpayer dollars. Health centers are an excellent public investment that generates substantial benefits for patients, communities, insurers, and governments – indeed, for all of America.

The bottom line is this: The current health care system in America is not working. Too much money continues to be spent, while the number of uninsured and underserved people continues to rise, and the quality of care received remains inadequate. America now has the chance to make a public investment that will pay off in the future. Investment in the growth of Community Health Centers today is a smart choice for a healthier America tomorrow.

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