A new update underscores the central role of community health centers in controlling community spread, while ensuring that patients have access to their regular source of health care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors emphasize the forms of support needed in order to keep health centers operating including:
- A multi-year extension of the Community Health Center Fund in order to enable health centers to maintain care for the uninsured.
- An additional $1.32 billion in funding, as called for in the Senate’s pending legislation, to expand and strengthen health centers’ ability to respond to their communities during the pandemic.
- Inclusion of community health centers in states’ Medicaid 1135 public health emergency plans so that health center services can be fully covered and funded under Medicaid’s Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) program, whether provided in clinical care or offsite settings. This includes telehealth communications.
- Especially urgent is lifting HHS restrictions on Medicare FQHC telehealth coverage during the emergency in order to ensure that community health centers can fully serve their more than 2.7 million Medicare patients.
The update was prepared by researchers at the Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.