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Community health centers: Ready for ACA?

May 21, 2014

      ​How ready are community clinics for the anticipated increase in new patients as a result of health care reform?  A new study of clinics in Los Angeles provides a portrait of how community health centers (CHCs) in California and potentially nationwide are adopting a "medical home" model of care, increasing their managed care participation, updating their information technology and engaging in quality initiatives in order to prepare for an anticipated influx of newly insured while still effectively serving CHCs' traditional clients, the uninsured.

      The study, conducted by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research with support from the California Community Foundation and the Weingart Foundation, found that at least 62 percent of CHCs were in some stage of readiness but that many CHCs ― especially smaller organizations ― lack the resources to do so. 

      Specifically, the study found that one quarter of CHCs have obtained formal medical home recognition with another 49 percent in some stage of the application process.  In addition, a majority (88 percent) of CHCs had electronic health records and that most had participated in some kind of initiative to improve their quality of care.

      Yet the authors also found that many CHCs lack the resources or have competing priorities to commit to the substantial effort required to obtain Medical Home recognition. Although a majority of CHCs have information technology, far fewer reported using the technology effectively.

      In addition, few CHCs reported a substantial proportion of patients covered by any private or public managed care organization, including Healthy Families, Medi-Cal, or Medicare managed care.

      "More people than ever before now depend on community health centers for essential health care," said Nadereh Pourat, the Center's director of research, who led the study. "CHCs need support to expand beyond their traditional roles and responsibilities if they are going to effectively serve new populations."

      The policy brief is accompanied by an illustrative set of charts that provide demographic and other information on the CHCs surveyed for the study.

      Read the policy brief: Ready for ACA? How Community Health Centers Are Preparing for Health Care Reform

      The Weingart Foundation is a private, nonprofit grantmaking foundation that supports nonprofit organizations in the areas of health, human services and education across seven Southern California counties.

      The California Community Foundation is a public entity that manages more than 1,700 charitable foundations, funds and legacies to help create greater equity, opportunity and prosperity in Los Angeles County.