Transforming Health Care Through Evidence and Collaboration
Transforming Health Care Through Evidence and Collaboration
The NIHCM Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving the effectiveness, efficiency and quality of America's health care system.
  • Data Insights

    Mental illness is increasingly common among young people but many are not receiving the treatment that they need. This Data Insights explores current trends in youth mental health and opportunities to improve outcomes.

    Learn More
  • Grants

    NIHCM Foundation has awarded 14 grants for health care journalism including investigative reporting and educational opportunities for reporters.

    Press Release All Journalism Grantees
  • Awards

    NIHCM Foundation is pleased to welcome Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Dr. Aaron E. Carroll and Eliza Barclay to the independent judges panel of the NIHCM Awards. All three bring considerable expertise to the prestigious panel.

    Press Release Judges Panels The NIHCM Awards
  • Grants

    NIHCM Foundation has awarded over $500,000 in grants to support nine investigator-initiated research studies.

    Press Release All Research Grantees
  • Briefing

    NIHCM Foundation led a briefing on Capitol Hill to discuss social determinants of health and the opioid crisis with Founding President and CEO Nancy Chockley, former CMS Administrator Don Berwick, Curtis Barnett of Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, Craig Samitt of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, and Grant Baldwin from the CDC.

    Press Release Watch the Video
  • Advisory Board

    NIHCM Foundation is pleased to welcome Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Sherry Glied, PhD, and Katherine Baicker, PhD, to its distinguished Advisory Board. Their ideas and insights will advance NIHCM's mission to improve health care for millions of Americans.

    Press Release Advisory Board
  • News

    NIHCM welcomed Secretary Azar to a meeting in March to discuss efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services to transform health care by lowering costs and improving value for patients.

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Events

February 24, 2020
Teen-Mental-Health-webinar-graphic

This webinar explored cross-sector strategies to prevent teen substance and suicide, as well as the role of school-based health services in providing behavioral health care.

January 27, 2020
SDOH-webinar-graphic-012720

This webinar explored public and private sector efforts to improve health outcomes by addressing social determinants of health.

In the News

February 2020
Population Health Spotlight
newsletter-alcohol-deaths-v2

The Health Care Safety Net: Community Health Centers' Vital Role

Peter Shin, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management, George Washington University

Despite substantial gains in insurance coverage linked to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 9.1 percent of U.S. residents—or nearly 29 million people—remain uninsured.1 At the same time, rising out-of-pocket health expenses are limiting access and imposing financial hardship on increasing numbers of people who are insured, especially those at lower income levels. Many of these people are heavily reliant on the health care safety net and, in particular, on the care provided by the nationwide network of non-profit community health centers (CHCs).

In this essay, I describe the current status of CHCs and the post-ACA environment in which they are operating. The evidence indicates that even as we continue to expand coverage and improve care delivery under the ACA, strengthening the health care safety net by supporting CHCs must remain a priority.

Peter Shin
Peter Shin
What Are CHCs?

First launched in the mid-1960s, CHCs’ mission is to provide affordable care for medically underserved and low-income populations in both urban and rural communities. With a history of bipartisan support, the program has grown to over 1,300 health centers serving 24 million patients at over 9,000 service delivery sites.2

CHCs must accept all patients, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay, and they use multidisciplinary care teams to provide a comprehensive set of services, including dental, vision, behavioral health and pharmacy services as well as enabling services such as transportation and translation that are not typically covered by insurance. They are also uniquely staffed to help people with low health literacy, and most have online technology necessary for Medicaid and health insurance exchange enrollment. In 2014, 92 percent of CHC patients had incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level and 71 percent were living below the poverty line; 28 percent were uninsured.3

CHCs rely on a diverse mix of funding streams to cover their costs, including enhanced reimbursement from Medicaid, Medicare and private insurers; patient payments based on income-related fees; competitively-awarded federal grants; and other grants and contracts from state, local and private sources. In FY2015, 43 percent of all CHC revenue was from Medicaid and CHIP. Federal grants accounted for 22 percent of revenue and Medicare and private insurance payments added another 16 percent, while direct payments from patients constituted only 5 percent of CHCs’ revenue.4

Studies consistently show that CHCs improve the health status of communities and patients. Importantly, they have also been linked to costs savings through (a) reduced use of emergency rooms; (b) fewer preventable hospitalizations; (c) improved access to primary and prenatal care; (d) enhanced preventive and chronic care management; (e) fewer unnecessary tests; and (f) the more prevalent use of less expensive providers.5

CHCs and the Affordable Care Act

The ACA supported CHCs in several ways, most notably by providing $11 billion in new mandatory funding over five years to increase the number and capacity of CHCs. In 2015, Congress extended this funding through 2017. The ACA also enhanced Medicare reimbursement for CHCs by requiring a new payment system better reflecting their costs of care.6

The ACA’s coverage expansions through Medicaid and private insurance should help CHCs’ by increasing revenue from insured patients. Past experience leads us to expect these new resources will lead to expansions in CHC capacity and services.7

At the same time, the higher patient demand arising from expanded insurance coverage means CHCs—many of which are already straining under workforce shortages—will need to recruit additional staff. To help on that front, the ACA appropriated $1.5 billion over five years for the National Health Service Corps plus $230 million over the same period to support graduate medical education in CHCs and other community-based settings (both streams subsequently extended through 2017). These avenues are proven ways to address CHC staffing challenges.8

Lastly, the law designates CHCs as a type of essential community provider and requires private plans sold in the exchanges to offer a contract to at least one CHC in every county in their service area where a CHC is present. Plans must pay at least the enhanced Medicaid rates to these facilities, and negotiated rates could be higher.

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Events

February 24, 2020
Teen-Mental-Health-webinar-graphic

This webinar explored cross-sector strategies to prevent teen substance and suicide, as well as the role of school-based health services in providing behavioral health care.

January 27, 2020
SDOH-webinar-graphic-012720

This webinar explored public and private sector efforts to improve health outcomes by addressing social determinants of health.

In the News

February 2020
Population Health Spotlight
newsletter-alcohol-deaths-v2

Grants

Journalism GrantsJournalism Grant Program

We are no longer accepting letters of inquiry for the 2019-2020 round of grantmaking. NIHCM will notify grant winners in November 2019.

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NYTUpshotLogo

Investigator-Initiated Research Grant Program

Nine new grantees for the 2019-2020 funding cycle have been announced! We will begin accepting Letters of Inquiry for the 2020-2021 funding cycle in late spring 2020.

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Awards

Now Accepting Entries for the 26th Annual Research and Journalism Awards

Winners Announcment 2018 1

Submit your research or reporting published in 2019 by February 3, 2020 for a chance to win up to $20,000. Winners and finalists will be recognized at a dinner in Washington, D.C., in May 2020.

Learn More and Apply