A Federally Qualified Health Center, or FQHC, is a clinic that provides comprehensive primary and preventive care to patients of all ages in underserved and rural areas. FQHCs must accept all patients, regardless of their ability to pay or their health insurance status. They are also known as Community/Migrant Health Centers (C/MHCs), Community Health Centers (CHCs), and 330 Funded Clinics.
FQHCs receive higher reimbursement rates from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) than other facilities, as established in Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (PHS).
What are the types of FQHCs?
- Federally Qualified Health Center - An FQHC is an administrative parent that receives a Section 330 grant. Upon receiving the grant, they receive the FQHC designation.
- Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike - An FQHC Look-Alike serves the same administrative purposes as an FQHC. However, it did not receive a Section 330 grant.
- Federally Qualified Health Center Service Site - An FQHC Service Site is a location providing services for a qualified FQHC. All FQHC Service Sites have an FQHC parent.
- Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike Service Site - An FQHC Look-Alike Service Site can operate under an FQHC or an FQHC Look-Alike. A service site may be classified as a Look-Alike for two reasons. (1) They were added after the grant funding for the current year was issued and are not included in that grant. Or (2) the administrative parent did not receive Section 330 funding and was designated an FQHC Look-Alike.
How many FQHCs are there in the U.S.?
There are currently 1,403 official FQHC locations in the U.S., but FQHC Look-Alikes and service sites bring that number closer to 17,900.
Type of FQHC
# of FQHC in U.S.
Federally Qualified Health Centers
Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alikes
Federally Qualified Health Center Service Sites
Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike Service Sites
Fig. 1 Data is from the Definitive Healthcare ClinicView product. Data is accurate as of May 2022.
Among all FQHCs, Federally Qualified Health Center Service Sites have the most locations in the U.S. at 15,838. These FQHCs account for 89% of the total FQHC locations. Next are Federally Qualified Health Centers at 1,403 locations, or 8% of the total. Third are Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike Service Sites at 523, or 3% of the total. Lastly, Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alikes have 126 locations, or 1% of the total.
What are the features of an FQHC?
To be a qualified entity in the federal health center program, an organization must:
- Offer services to all, regardless of the person’s ability to pay
- Establish a sliding fee discount program
- Be a nonprofit or public organization
- Be community-based, with the majority of its governing board of directors composed of patients
- Serve a medically underserved area or population
- Provide comprehensive primary care services
- Have an ongoing quality assurance program
These health centers provide a comprehensive set of health services, including behavioral health, primary care, chronic care management, preventive care, and other services, such as radiology, laboratory services, dental, transportation, translation, and social services.
Which populations seek care at FQHCs most often?
The purpose of FQHCs is to serve communities that may have financial disadvantages, language barriers, geographic barriers, or other specific needs.
According to the HRSA, 1 in 11 people across the United States rely on FQHCs for care.
Although FQHCs are essential in healthcare, they still face some challenges. Due to the large volume of patients these clinics serve, wait times for an appointment can be lengthy. In addition, there is usually a high turnover of providers at FQHCs, which impacts continuity of care. But, despite challenges with scheduling and provider turnover, FQHCs play a major role in ensuring equitable care for medically underserved populations.
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