Public Health Community Advisory – Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) serve over 22 million people in more than 9,000 sites across urban, suburban, and rural America. FQHCs are particularly adept at reducing health disparities by breaking down barriers to health care such as lack of providers, lack of culturally appropriate health services, and unaffordability. Since FQHCs serve everyone regardless of their ability to pay, they save the American health care system $24 billion a year by lowering more costly trips to emergency rooms.
Nebraska’s Community Health Centers
Nebraska has seven FQHCs with 30 clinic sites. To help Nebraska’s FQHCs improve their ability to provide access to high quality, affordable health care, the Health Center Association of Nebraska (HCAN) was formed in 2011. HCAN’s mission is to support Nebraska’s FQHCs, as they provide comprehensive medical homes for the medically underserved.
Together, the member health centers of HCAN served over 64,376 Nebraskans in 2013, 51% of whom were uninsured and 66% of whom had incomes at or below 100% of the federal poverty level, Nebraska’s FQHCs truly reach people and communities most in need.
With offices in Omaha, HCAN is an association of FQHCs in Columbus, Gering, Grand Island, Lincoln, Madison, Norfolk, Omaha, and Plattsmouth. These health centers provide comprehensive health care services, including medical, dental, behavioral health, and pharmacy components. In addition, all services are provided in a culturally sensitive environment for refugee, minority, and low-income communities, including translation services in several languages.
HCAN’s Impact on Public Health
Nebraska’s FQHCs are supported in part by both federal and state funds, in addition to patient fees. Because of this funding, health centers are able to take advantage of a host of disease prevention and health promotion initiatives through the U.S. and Nebraska Departments of Health and Human Services. The health centers are meeting and improving on quality benchmarks set by these funding sources. Their hard work to improve access to care by outreach and enrollment efforts helped lead to nearly 43,000 Nebraskans being newly insured through the Health Insurance Marketplace. The centers’ certified application counselors are educating patients on how their new coverage can be used to prevent disease and better manage chronic illness.
While HCAN’s emphasis is on lessening health care disparities and championing health care equity, from its very beginning, it has fostered partnerships with UNMC’s College of Public Health and other entities promoting the health of all Nebraskans. By offering up-to-date training and technical assistance, partnerships with health care organizations and government health offices, and effective advocacy for the medically underserved, HCAN will continue to impact Nebraska’s FQHCs and ultimately, the health and well-being of all Nebraskans.
This article was written by Robbie Adams, communications manager of the Health Center Association of Nebraska. HCAN can be found on the web at www.HCANebraska.org, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HCANebraska, and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HCANebraska.