December 23, 2013

A new brief from The Kaiser Family Foundation’s Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, “A Profile of Community Health Center Patients: Implications for Policy” compares the patients served by community health centers to the general low-income population, using data from the Health Center Patient Survey and the National Health Interview Survey. The profile of CHC patients prior to the full implementation of the Affordable care Act is intended to provide a baseline profile and set the stage for measuring change following full implementation of the health reform law. The report was authored by researchers at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services and the Kaiser Family Foundation, with additional support from the RCHN Community Health Foundation.

The reports key finding include:

  • Compared to the overall low- income population, health center patients are more disadvantaged. Health center patients are poorer, more racially and ethnically diverse, and more likely to be unemployed and uninsured than the broader low- income population.
  • Health center patients are twice as likely as low – income people overall to report being in only fair or poor health – 32% compared to 16%. The disparity in self – reported health status is apparent not only in the aggregate, but also within different insurance categories. For example, among both Medicaid beneficiaries and the uninsured, 1 in 3 health center patients reports being in fair or poor health, compared to about 1 in 7 low – income individuals generally. These findings point to health centers as a locus of care for a largely low – income population with substantial health burdens.
  • Rates of chronic conditions are higher among the health center patient population. Adult health center patients report having diabetes and asthma at rates 50% higher than the rates among all low – income adults. Their self – reported rate of hypertension is also higher.
  • On key measures of preventive care and care management, health center patients fare as well as or better than the low – income population in general. Children who were health center patients were more likely than all low – income children to have received a check – up and a dental visit in the past year. Cancer screening rates were roughly similar between adult health center patients and all low – income adults, and adult health center patients with chronic diseases were at least as likely to receive chronic care services. However, mixed findings on cancer care and low rates of chronic care receipt point to health center difficulties in securing access to specialist care for their patients.

The full issue brief can be accessed online here.