Community health center use grew by 33 percent after ACA, Milken researchers find

Four professors in the health policy and management department in the Milken Institute School of Public Health found that the percentage of patients using community health centers in the United States jumped by 33 percent over a six-year time span, according to a new report.

Public health professors Peter Shin, Jessica Sharac, Rachel Gunsalus and Sara Rosenbaum examined community health center use between 2010 and 2016 and utilized data from the Uniform Data System, a national yearly reporting system to which all community health centers contribute. Researchers said the data shows the importance of the health center fund established in the Affordable Care Act in 2009, which was renewed by Congress earlier this year.

Within the national 33 percent spike, the number of patients treated and overall growth rate varied by state. Louisiana experienced the highest change in the percentage of health care patients, increasing by 86 percent, while Wyoming’s sat at the opposite end of the scale with a 15 percent drop. Forty-eight states saw an increase in community health center use between 2010 and 2016, the report states.

In the District, the total percentage of patients using community health centers increased by 63 percent.

The growth was true for both states that underwent a Medicaid expansion and those that did not after the passage of the ACA, according to the report.

“The fact that this surge reached all states underscores the role played by the Affordable Care Act’s health center fund,” the study states.

The professors collaborated with the RCHN Community Health Foundation, a nonprofit that supports community health centers, to complete the research.

Feygele Jacobs, the president and CEO of the RCHN Community Health Foundation, said the data demonstrates the importance of community health centers in underserved communities.

“These impressive growth figures not only show the importance of health centers to the medically underserved communities they serve but also underscore the essential role played by the Affordable Care Act, both for its Medicaid expansion and for its health center fund,” Jacobs said in the report.

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