WASHINGTON and NEW YORK – Two of the pressing challenges facing the nation with the enactment of health care reform are whether the U.S. will have enough primary care providers and whether health care costs can be contained. A new analysis released by the Geiger Gibson/ RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, indicates that the expansion of community health centers will make a major contribution towards addressing both problems.

The report, titled “Strengthening Primary Care to Bend the Cost Curve: The Expansion of Community Health Centers Through Health Reform,” indicates that the $11 billion in additional federal grants for community health centers will:

• Increase the number of patients receiving primary care at health centers by at least 18 million by the end of the decade, effectively doubling the number of people served.
• Reduce total national medical costs by more than $180 billion over the next ten years, including savings of more than $50 billion in federal Medicaid spending and more than $30 billion in reduced state Medicaid expenditures.
• Reduce medical costs by up to $300 billion over the next ten years if health centers receive additional funding through appropriations in future years.

“This study shows the tremendous quality and efficiency gains that can flow from a strong and long-term investment in primary health care,” said Sara Rosenbaum, Hirsh Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Policy at GW.

“Health centers will be able to provide primary care to a major share of the 32 million Americans who will gain health insurance coverage over the next decade because of health reform,” said Julio Bellber, president and CEO of the RCHN Community Health Foundation. “Since health centers take a team-based approach to care, with physicians, nurses and other health personnel collaborating, they are able to use resources efficiently.”

“The new law both expands health insurance coverage and strengthens the role of community health centers as a key element of our health care system,” added Leighton Ku, GW professor and lead author of the report. “These changes create an economic engine to extend the primary health care home model to many more rural, urban and suburban communities across the nation.”

Investments in community health centers address the major issues confronting health reform – bolstering our capacity to provide primary care while bending the curve of growth in health care costs. The savings projected by this analysis reinforce the premise that health insurance coverage expansions, coupled with investments in the nation’s primary health care infrastructure, can spur high quality and sustainable primary health care in medically underserved communities.

About the RCHN Community Health Foundation
The RCHN Community Health Foundation (RCHN CHF), is a New York based not-for-profit operating foundation whose mission is to support community health centers through strategic investment, outreach, education, and cutting-edge health policy research. The only foundation in the country dedicated to community health centers, the Foundation develops and supports programmatic and business initiatives related to community health center needs, building on a commitment to the provision of accessible, high quality, community-based healthcare services for underserved and medically vulnerable populations. For more information on RCHN CHF, visit www.rchnfoundation.org

About The George Washington University Medical Center
The George Washington University Medical Center is an internationally recognized interdisciplinary academic health center that has consistently provided high-quality medical care in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area for 176 years. The Medical Center comprises the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the 11th oldest medical school in the country; the School of Public Health and Health Services, the only such school in the nation’s capital; GW Hospital, jointly owned and operated by a partnership between The George Washington University and Universal Health Services, Inc.; and the GW Medical Faculty Associates, an independent faculty practice plan. For more information on GWUMC, visit www.gwumc.edu .