Uninsured and Medicaid Patients More Likely to Receive Preventive Care in Community Health Centers

WASHINGTON (August 13, 2008) — Despite having a more vulnerable patient mix, community health centers (CHC) out-perform other primary care providers in the use of preventive care by both Medicaid and uninsured patients. A new study from The George Washington University Medical Center’s School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS) observes differences of as much as 22 percent between the receipt of preventive care in CHC and non-CHC settings. The study is part of a series of health policy research briefs prepared by the Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative.

The GW policy brief, “Uninsured and Medicaid Patients Access to Preventive Care: Comparison of Health Centers and Other Primary Care Providers,” uses national data to examine the role of health centers in providing preventive services to both Medicaid recipients and the uninsured by comparing CHC performance to other primary care practices. The analysis finds that health centers achieve significantly higher levels of preventive health care in key areas, including preventive screening for diabetes, hypertension, and breast and cervical cancer, which can significantly lower health care costs for a higher risk population.

“The findings document that while health centers serve the most vulnerable populations at the greatest risk for poor health outcomes, their patients are getting more preventive care,” said Julio Bellber, president and CEO of the RCHN Community Health Foundation. “This underscores the value of health centers in serving hard to reach populations and the importance of continued investment in health centers as the core of the safety net.”

Sara Rosenbaum, chair of the Department of Health Policy and a study co-author added, “This study has important implications for national health reform, because it underscores that even comparably insured patients may have distinctly different health care access patterns, with the highest need patients significantly more likely to be treated in health center and other safety net settings.” (SOURCE: Commonwealth Fund Washington Health Policy Week in Review , http://commonwealthfund.org, August 18, 2008, posted August 13, 2008)