Changes at Community Health Centers, and How Patients Are Benefiting

Results from the Commonwealth Fund National Survey of Federally Qualified Health Centers, 2013–2018

August 20, 2019

Community health centers provide comprehensive primary care and preventive services to some of the most vulnerable and underserved Americans, reducing the need for more costly forms of care, such as hospitalizations and emergency department visits, down the line. Their presence in underserved rural and urban communities also serves as a stimulus to local economies. For these reasons, health centers have enjoyed bipartisan support for decades.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) greatly altered the landscape for community health centers. The law not only increased their federal funding, but it expanded the share of health center patients with insurance coverage and invested in programs to grow the health center workforce. To track how health centers across the United States are changing in light of these shifts in the policy landscape, we compared results from the 2013 Commonwealth Fund Survey of Federally Qualified Health Centers — conducted two years after increased federal funding began and one year prior to the ACA’s insurance expansions — with results from the most recent survey in 2018. (To see the impact of the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility on community health centers, see our earlier brief, The Role of Medicaid Expansion in Care Delivery at Community Health Centers.)

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