Community Health Centers are serving more Medicaid patients than ever. A NACHC analysis reveals that in 2018 health centers served 1 in 5 Medicaid beneficiaries (up from 1 in 6 in 2018, or roughly 14 million people).
As the nation’s largest network of safety net primary care providers, health centers serve a large and growing number of special populations – but the growth in Medicaid patients is significant for several reasons. First, research has shown that health centers generate cost-savings for the public insurance program. In fact, a landmark study found that in 13 states health centers save, on average, $2,371 (or 24 percent) per Medicaid patient when compared to other providers. That data squares with previous studies that document cost-savings of up to $6 billion annually because health center Medicaid patients are less likely to turn to costly hospital and emergency department-related services than patients of other providers, even under managed care. Having both an insurance card and regular access to care at a health center is pivotal. Medicaid patients use these tools and stay healthy [see NACHC Medicaid Fact Sheet] with a range of comprehensive services available under one roof.
Also noteworthy is that the higher numbers come as the Medicaid program is being targeted by proposals that aim to trim costs and shrink the ranks of users with block grants or per capita caps. Such moves will likely pack a financial punch to health centers, according to a study recently published in the peer review journal Milbank Quarterly by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. The study notes that recent 1115 waivers to change state-level enrollment and eligibility requirements will reduce revenues and service capacity among health centers. A case in point is Tennessee, which has a pending block grant proposal. Alaska, Texas and Georgia are also reportedly exploring ways to reform their Medicaid programs [see previous post], including through the use of block grants. Under a block grant, the GW researchers write, total health center revenues generated by the Medicaid expansion population would drop 92 percent and 58 percent for traditional enrollees by 2024.