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What is the difference between a CHC and FQHC?

June 15, 2022

Healthcare is constantly changing to remain beneficial and effective for patients, and for hospitals and facilities to provide excellent care. The cost of healthcare is also a factor for patients who are uninsured or underinsured, so coordination and continuity of care is a challenge.

Community health centers (CHC), which are under the umbrella of federally qualified health centers (FQHC), move beyond the barriers for these patients to provide care at a lower cost by operating with funding from the government. The differences between the two are minimal, but the access and benefits they provide mean the world to their patients.

What Is a CHC and What Services Do They Offer?

CHCs are designed to provide primary care services to patients who live in underserved communities, and serve patients who have little or no health insurance. While CHCs provide affordable care, they are not free clinics. Care is provided to each patient based on his or her income, or the income of a household that is below 200% of the poverty limit, and is structured with a sliding fee schedule for affordability.

The primary care services patients receive focus on chronic disease, preventive care, and management of health screenings to promote a healthy lifestyle. Additional services include pharmacy, mental health, substance abuse counseling, and dental services.

coronis health stock photo of doctor using stethoscope on patient CHC FQHC

To remain accredited as a CHC, quality metrics are measured to ensure that a center is meeting the standards set in place to improve population, create excellent patient experiences, and lower the cost of healthcare.  

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) also requires CHCs to report the performance data compiled by the center to ensure that performance improvement initiatives are consistent with clinical and operational objectives. 

CHCs fall into the category of a federally qualified health center as they receive government funding to facilitate the programs offered to patients in underserved areas, which include the 340B drug pricing discounts and free vaccines for children. Other benefits for CHCs include recruiting assistance for primary care physicians with the National Health Service Corps, and the potential to receive grant funding, which can aid with malpractice coverage for employed providers. 

What Is a FQHC and What Services Do They Offer?

Federally qualified health centers (FQHC) were first established in 1965 as primary care clinics. All centers that fall under the FQHC umbrella, which include community health centers, migrant health centers, centers for the homeless, or health centers for residents of public housing, are required to maintain a high standard of services by meeting the requirements of services that are based on a sliding fee scale. All FQHCs receive funding from the HRSA, and all centers must operate with a board of directors that includes members who are also patients and actively use the services at the center.

All FQHCs provide primary care services to patients regardless of their ability to pay. The mission of FQHCs is to provide affordable, quality care that is accessible to those who are underinsured or uninsured.

Most people recognize community health centers, which also fall under the overall category of a federally qualified health center.

How Are the Two Types of Clinics Different From Each Other?

CHCs and FQHCs may differ based on local demographics or the type of clinic, such as a migrant health center, or a community health center, but for the most part, the two are the same as CHCs are an FQHC. There are centers, however, that are called “look-alikes”, which provide the same types of services and are eligible for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, but they are not eligible for receiving federal grants. Overall, the mission of a CHC and FQHC are the same. 

Which Type of Clinic Is Right for You and Your Family’s Needs?

A CHC or FQHC is beneficial for patients who meet the income requirements to receive primary care services. The guidelines for receiving services are based on income, and considering the demographics of a community or county, certain clinics will be available to provide care for patients and families who seek quality healthcare. For instance, rural areas may have centers that focus on services that differ from the inner city, so researching your community will give you a foundation of knowledge to make the right decision about healthcare for you and your family. 

How Can You Find Out More About CHCs and FQHCs?

The best way to find out about CHCs or FQHCs is to research the centers located in your community. Locate a center by searching in your state and city, and visit the website for each center. You will find out about services, hours, providers, and the mission of the center. Your search will give you the information you are seeking to make an educated decision about the care you receive for you and your family. 

How Coronis Health Supports CHCs and FQHCs

Coronis Health offers medical billing and other services to help CHCs and FQHCs function more efficiently. With scalable solutions, our team of experts is ready to assist these facilities by easing their administrative burden and free staff to care for patients. Contact us today to learn more about our services.

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