Financial challenges plague Federally Qualified Health Centers

Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) cater to nearly 21 million people annually who need care the most, and do so in a not-so-lavish way.

But FQHCs also do something that other high-funded medical groups do not, writes Todd Rothenhaus, M.D., chief medical officer for AthenaHealth, in a blog post: They focus on the patients and providers' quality of care, and worry little about revenue.

Although Medicare increased payments to FQHCs by as much as 32 percent under a new payment system in the Affordable Care Act, the centers still lack funding for operational necessities, Rothnenhaus writes. And the increasing popularity of Medicare and Medicaid plans means states are enrolling more members than FQHCs can handle.

What's more, the ACA funding expires after five years--and since FQHCs depend on preferential Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, few centers could survive on a standard-rate reimbursement system.

So, what can help FQHCs? IT services, for starters, notes Rothenhaus.

Meanwhile, despite a documented potential for health IT to improve the quality of care at FQHCs, a recent study in the journal BMC Health Services Research found that such facilities might not be maximizing its use--50 percent of FQHCs surveyed were classified as having a low HIT capacity, FierceHealthIT previously reported.

For more:
- here's the blog post