FQHCs are community-based organizations that provide comprehensive primary care and preventive care, including health, oral, and mental health/substance abuse services to persons of all ages, regardless of their ability to pay.
FQHCs operate under a consumer Board of Directors governance structure and function under the supervision of the Health Resources and Services Administration, which is part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. FQHCs were originally meant to provide comprehensive health services to the medically underserved to reduce the patient load on hospital emergency rooms.
FQHCs provide their services to all persons regardless of ability to pay, and charge for services on a community board approved sliding-fee scale that is based on patients' family income and size. FQHCs must comply with Section 330 program requirements.
FQHCs are also called Community/Migrant Health Centers (C/MHC), Community Health Centers (CHC), and 330 Funded Clinics.
President Bush launched the Health Centers Initiative to significantly increase access to primary health care services in 1,200 communities through new or expanded health center sites. Between 2001 and 2006, the number of patients treated at health centers has increased by over 4.7 million, representing a nearly 50 percent increase in just five years. In 2006 the number of patients served topped the 15 million mark for the first time.
Approximately two-thirds of health center patients are minorities, and 9 out of 10 have incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. Four in 10 health center patients have no health insurance.
The health center program's annual federal funding has grown from $1.16 billion in fiscal year 2001 to $1.99 billion in fiscal year 2007.