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Community Health Centers Seeing More Patients In Wake Of Massachusetts Health Reform

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Community Health Centers Seeing More Patients In Wake Of Massachusetts Health Reform


Chris Lee
(202) 347-5270

Community health centers in Massachusetts saw a significant increase – rather than the decline expected by some – in their patient-load from 2005 to 2007 as that state began implementing its health reform law. This trend illustrates the continuing need for a robust primary care safety net as a key component of a reformed health care system, according to a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

The 34 federally-qualified centers in Massachusetts, which provide comprehensive primary care for low-income and uninsured patients, served 482,503 patients in 2007, up more than 51,000 from two years before, the report found. At the same time, the number of center patients who lacked health insurance declined, a reflection of the state’s successful effort to improve coverage by expanding public programs and making private insurance more affordable.

Despite the reduction in the overall number of uninsured, health centers continued to see substantial numbers of people with no health coverage at all, serving an increasing share of the state’s shrinking uninsured population.

The findings offer important lessons for policymakers in Washington contemplating health reform on a national scale. The Massachusetts experience shows that community health centers play a critical role in caring for newly-insured patients while continuing to serve as the primary care safety net for those who remain uninsured.

The report, commissioned by the Foundation’s Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, was conducted by researchers at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, with additional support provided by the
Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative.

The study was released today along with a new fact sheet on community health centers and an updated issue brief that examines the role of such centers in providing comprehensive primary care to more than 16 million patients nationwide.

The reports can be viewed online.

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