Increased Demand for Care Under ACA Falling to Community Clinics
Federally qualified health centers across California are dealing with pent-up demand for health care services after implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and that demand is expected to increase as Covered California begins its second open enrollment period, the CHCF Center for Health Reporting/Los Angeles Daily News reports.
The center is supported by a grant from the California HealthCare Foundation, which publishes California Healthline.
Details of FQHCs
There are about 1,200 FQHCs in California that mainly provide preventive and primary care services.
About 3.4 million Californians visited such clinics in 2013 -- up from 2.5 million in 2008.
Nationally, about 40% of funding for FQHCs comes from federal grants, with most of the remainder coming from insured patients. As a result, the clinics have focused heavily on efforts to enroll residents in private health insurance or Medi-Cal coverage. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program. About one-third of all certified enrollment counselors in the state this year were based in community health centers.
Clinics Dealing With Increased Demand
Health care advocates say clinics that have taken part in enrollment efforts and implemented new systems are best able to deal with the growing number of patients seeking care.
Louise McCarthy, president and CEO of the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County, said San Fernando Health Center -- run by Northeast Valley Health Corporation -- is "a model clinic." According to McCarthy, Northeast Valley has implemented and upgraded its electronic health record system and patient portal, an online doctor-patient communication system. It also has extended the hours its pharmacy is open.
The number of patients visiting Northeast Valley clinics this year is expected to grow by at least 4% over last year. Last year, about 30% of the clinics' patients were uninsured, but that rate is expected to drop to about 23% this year.
The San Fernando center also is slated to open a new 10,000-square-foot addition in November that was funded by an ACA Building Capacity grant.
However, many clinics -- including San Fernando Health Center -- still are experiencing longer wait times in the wake of increased demand from the ACA.
In addition, Northeast Valley CEO Kim Wyard said some clinics are able to make appointments within five days, while it can take more than 100 days at other sites (Whaley, CHCF Center for Health Reporting/Los Angeles Daily News, 10/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.