We’ve always known that health centers and Medicaid are ideal partners in the effort to cut health care costs. A host of independent studies, both statewide and national, have confirmed those findings over the course of many years. Now a new NACHC fact sheet based on 2016 federal data showcases those findings and takes a closer look at the costs of caring for a large Medicaid population.
Health centers provide care to one in every 6 Medicaid beneficiaries, but Medicaid payments to health centers make up only just under two percent of total Medicaid spending. Meanwhile, health centers are providing affordable access to preventive care for a large portion of the Medicaid population, reducing costly visits to hospital emergency rooms. In fact, health centers save the Medicaid program $6 billion annually. And a previous landmark study [see press release] found that in 13 states, health centers save, on average, $2,371 (or 24 percent) per Medicaid patient when compared to other providers. In communities fortunate enough to have a health center, there are lower rates of hospital utilization among Medicaid beneficiaries who are health center patients because having a usual source of care ensures they don’t delay getting care until they are very sick.
Caring for Medicaid patients does have its challenges, though. Nearly half of health center patients (49 percent) rely on Medicaid, but the amount of Medicaid revenue collected in 2016 only covered 80 percent of the cost associated with caring for that population, which puts health centers in a tight financial squeeze. Adequate Medicaid reimbursement is a key issue for health centers, as is a strong and robust Medicaid program.