A study released earlier this month in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, highlights the critical role Community Health Centers play in eliminating disparities in access to health care and that “[health centers] are successfully reaching vulnerable populations.” The study, Reducing Disparities in Access to Primary Care and Patient Satisfaction with Care: The Role of Health Centers, used data from the 2009 Health Center Patient Survey and the 2009 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to compare the primary care experiences of health center patients and low-income patients nationwide.
Overall the study found that unlike low-income patients nationwide, patients who used health centers were more satisfied and experienced no significant disparities in access to care despite their racial/ethnic or insurance coverage differences. The study found that:
· Health center patients are more diverse—both ethnically and racially— than U.S. low-income patients and more often uninsured (39 versus 17 percent) or publicly insured (54 versus 27 percent) and more likely to be female:
· The percent of health center patients who reported having a usual source of care (82 percent) was slightly lower than the U.S. low-income population (86 percent), but health center patients more often reported having a physician’s office or health center as their usual source of care;
· 97.7 percent of health center patients reported they were satisfied with the care they received compared to 87.2 percent of U.S. low-income patients;
· Among U.S. low-income patients there was a greater gap in care satisfaction in relation to insurance status—only 81 percent of uninsured low-income patients said they were satisfied with the care they receive compared to 90 percent of those patients who had private insurance;
· Among health center patients there is less of a gap in care satisfaction in relation to insurance status—in the health center group the study found 97.2 percent of uninsured patients were satisfied compared to 99.7 percent of those in the same group who had private insurance.
“Our findings have important implications for health services research and policy. Our study affirms the important role fulfilled by [health centers] in serving the nation’s most vulnerable patients, including racial/ethnic minorities and uninsured or publicly insured patients,” write the study’s authors.