By Andy Behrman
It’s no secret that being able to access affordable, quality health care is critical to maintaining good health and enjoying a prosperous life. In Florida, our community health centers fill the role of providing comprehensive primary and preventive care to every patient, regardless of their ability to pay. And by helping to keep these patients out of hospital emergency rooms, we are able to save the state millions of dollars every year.
With Florida’s legislative session just around the corner, it is crucial that our elected officials remember the essential services provided by Federally Qualified Health Centers and protect current funding levels that keep these centers operating. This is necessary so they can continue to serve our growing patient population of more than 1.45 million patients every year.
As President and CEO of the Florida Association of Community Health Centers, I have seen firsthand the impact these centers have in every community. Some individuals, including those who are uninsured or on Medicaid, can’t afford comprehensive primary care services. That’s why our centers provide critical medical care to ensure that all Floridians have the chance to maintain their health and well-being.
Community health centers play a critical role by providing medical care to all those in need across Florida. With more than 480 center locations serving all 67 counties, including mobile medical and dental units, we provide Floridians with a safety net. Our mission, and our passion, is to provide quality care for the many individuals who may not otherwise have access to medical, dental, pharmacy, behavioral, and other critical health care. These centers provide patients quality, comprehensive care to live a better life.
In addition to serving patients who have limited means to pay for their medical services, community health centers also significantly reduce the State’s health care costs. Each year, these centers save the state hundreds of millions of dollars by appropriately redirecting patients away from expensive treatments in far more costly hospital emergency rooms. At the same time, they provide more than $1.4 billion in economic activity and contribute to 15,000 jobs for Floridians.
Community health centers are fundamental to those who may not be insured or are on Medicaid. Health centers serve 1 in 5 Medicaid patients who receive primary care services, yet account for less than 2 percent of all Medicaid expenditures – a clear indication of how these centers save the state money. Almost eight out of every 10 patients who enter community health centers are uninsured or Medicaid recipients. These patients receive quality, comprehensive primary care services, regardless of their ability to pay, because community health centers never turn a patient away.
Legislators should recognize these enormous benefits when they review budget items that are essential for keeping our friends and neighbors healthy and safe. By supporting community health centers, our state is supporting a fiscally responsible means of keeping Floridians healthy.
Andrew Behrman is President and CEO of the Florida Association of Community Health Centers.