by Terrence M. Shirley, MPH
CEO, Community Health Center Association of Mississippi
Last week, health centers around the country celebrated National Health Center Week (August 7-13, 2022).
And there is a lot to celebrate. Below are some facts about health centers.
- Locally controlled health care. Health centers are non-profit, locally run organizations that provide primary health care. People you know in the community make up the boards of directors at health centers. In Mississippi, health centers care for more than 303,000 people.
- Value for patients. Health center services are an excellent value for the patients and for the communities where the health centers are located. Why? For patients, each health center offers access to affordable health care. Even if you don’t have health insurance or are underinsured, you can still see a provider at a health center and get your prescriptions filled at an affordable price. Having an affordable provider visit and prescription makes health care access possible for many. Citizens who are healthy and have the tools to manage chronic conditions can fully participate in community life.
- Keeping costs down. On average, the range of services health centers provide generates a savings of $2,300 per Medicaid patient and $24 billion in annual cost savings across the national health care delivery system. (National Assoc. of Community Health Centers, 2022) When costs are kept down for the health care system, that means slower rising costs for patients.
- Economic boosters. Health centers are an economic driver in communities. Health centers in Mississippi deliver $405,821,024 in economic activity. Each health center also brings high-paying jobs to the community with the much-needed services.
- Value for the health care system. Health centers are seen as a good value fiscally and have been supported for decades with investments from federal, state, and private foundation grants. However, this funding is never guaranteed. Health centers are held accountable to local boards, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, grant makers, and other stakeholders to secure this funding. Health centers must report budgets to patient-majority governing boards and to the IRS. And any cost savings the health centers receive are reinvested into the community.
The 340B Drug Pricing Program is a popular cost-saving program that benefits the patients and helps the covered entities, including health centers, stretch scarce resources. Established nationally in 1992, this program helps low-income and uninsured patients gain access to life-saving medications. Health centers use savings from this program to expand services for patients, reinvest them in the community, and grow to meet the community needs. Health center investments funded by the 340B Drug Pricing Program include expansion of all programs that health centers offer. In a state that lacks adequate access to health care, particularly in rural areas, expanding programs and services is desperately needed. Mississippi health centers need these revenue streams to continue to grow the services that are in demand in communities across the state. Our member health centers in Mississippi have opened and expanded pharmacies in communities that did not have a pharmacy, hired more highly skilled employees to provide care, and upgraded mobile clinics, to name a few of the expansion projects.
The bottom line: revenue streams to Mississippi health centers from the 340B Drug Pricing Program support economic development while providing health care options for Mississippians close to home. Unfortunately, efforts are afoot to limit the revenue streams to health centers through this program. Seven drug companies have announced restrictions to health center contract pharmacies (those pharmacies that work with health centers in providing medications under this program). If the attacks on this program continue, it will affect patient care and the health centers efforts to offer care. Patients may choose to go without filling prescriptions. And Mississippi health centers’ efforts will be stunted when trying to expand health care services to the areas in most need.
Mississippi’s health centers have enjoyed support for years from the community and state and U.S. Congressional leaders because they see health centers deliver on value, health care access, and economic stimulus. Over 50 years ago, health centers were established to expand access to health care, particularly in rural areas. Over 70 percent of Mississippi’s health centers are in rural areas. A little-known fact is the first rural health center in the country was established in Mound Bayou, Mississippi in 1965. Now, 1,400 health centers are located around the U.S. and serve more than 30 million people. Mississippi has 21 health centers with 257 sites around the state, serving 303,000 Mississippians.
All health centers matter and should be celebrated for the value, economic stimulus, and the opportunity they provide to Mississippians!
Terrence M. Shirley, MPH
CEO, Community Health Center Association of Mississippi
The Community Health Center Association of Mississippi is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) membership organization comprised of 21 Community Health Centers providing quality comprehensive healthcare in accredited medical homes. Member health centers provide care to over 303,000 patients within 257 sites throughout Mississippi’s underserved communities. For forty years, CHCAMS has provided its members with exceptional training, technical support, and advocacy at the state and federal levels.