Community Health Centers Poised for Expansion

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , September 4, 2013

Gary M. Wiltz, MD, the newly elected chairman of the National Association of Community Health Centers, vows to expand the public profile of the organizations he calls "the base of primary preventive care."

Gary M. Wiltz

Gary M. Wiltz, MD

Since the mid-1960s community health centers have done the heavy lifting and often thankless work of providing healthcare to poor and low-wage earners in underserved areas. In those decades they have proven their value and now serve about 22 million people who otherwise might go untreated. By some estimates community health centers will serve as many as 50 million people by 2019.

Gary M. Wiltz, MD, the newly elected chairman of the National Association of Community Health Centers, sees the role of community health centers growing dramatically over the next few years with the advent of the Affordable Care Act and its emphasis on population health and expanding Medicaid to improve access.

"We touch one in every 15 Americans right now, which is quite a statement about the expansion that we have enjoyed historically. We are projecting a lot of growth in the next five years, so there is a lot of work out there and a lot of people in need," says Wiltz, who also is the CEO at Teche Action Clinic in Franklin, LA.

"Quality is very important to us and we just want to make sure that we are making ourselves available and accessible. Our center here in Franklin is open six days a week, 12 hours a day, and a lot of our centers are trying to do extended hours to make sure we have the capacity to serve all of the newly insured that we hope when they come through our doors. It's the right thing to do for the country and the right thing to do by people."

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3 comments on "Community Health Centers Poised for Expansion"

Robert C. Bowman, M.D. (9/12/2013 at 12:23 PM)
Dr. Wiltz faces more adversity as he is in a state ranked 40th in CHC economic impact per person. As with the US design for health spending, most states fall short while 6 states benefit. Six of the top 10 states in CHC economic impact have the top concentrations of physicians and top economic impact from all other sources. Also rural CHCs fail to receive a share based on need - likely due to 1000 rural counties that benefit little by various state and federal designs. Many are simply not aware of CHC, FQHC, or Rural Health Clinics. They suffer most from lowest education, health, and other government spending - by design. They also suffer under pay for performance and highest readmission penalities (1 - 2%) - 14% of the hospitals in these 1000 counties, 9% for rural, 3% of urban hospitals. As 30 - 50% of Critical Access Hospitals close due to new federal recommendations, the strain on rural CHCs will be even greater. We should not have designs that send less spending and close facilities and drive off clinicians where there is least health spending per person and fewest clinicians. Our nation fails to produce the clinicians that will accept the family practice positions of CHCs with MD 7%, DO 17%, NP 25%, and PA 23% found in family practice positions. All including RNs have little primary care or underserved primary care training as well. NACHC has been working with A T Still University for over 16 years to produce the PAs, dentists, and osteopathic physicians needed for CHCs. More is needed. State primary care associations should have MD, DO, NP, PA, and RN students embedded in CHCs for preparation, training, and obligation - all specific to family practice positions where most needed. We need designs for most Americans rather than current designs favoring few.

Todd (9/5/2013 at 11:39 PM)
Its about time you expand. FQHCs got a big windfall from Obamacare. Quit expecting urgent care centers to play the role of PCMH and primary care.

Jeanette Wood (9/4/2013 at 2:43 PM)
I applaud your efforts to expand days and hours to serve our communities. I encourage you to offer access 7 days/week to further reduce the use of emergency rooms for non-emergent conditions.




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