Note: This brief was revised on June 17, 2020, to reflect that “health centers” refers to FQHC and FQHC Look-Alikes and to specify the number of Medi-Cal patients served by health centers.
Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and FQHC Look-Alikes (health centers) are the foundation of primary care in Medi-Cal, serving almost four million Medi-Cal patients* across the state in urban and rural areas. These patients reflect the state’s tremendous diversity. Over half served are Latino.
Health center patients are among the Californians most vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis. They are more likely to have the low-paying or hourly jobs that have been cut back; many may be essential workers putting their lives on the line. Many are immigrants or uninsured. If we are to achieve Governor Newsom’s vision of a “California for All,” where all Californians have the opportunity to thrive, then our response to COVID-19 must be equitable, ensuring that all Californians get the vital care and supports they need at this time.
As frontline care providers, health centers are crucial to the state’s response to COVID-19, especially in low-income communities. However, the type of care provided by health centers is still dictated by old payment rules that, even before this public health emergency, hadn’t kept with patients’ evolving needs or the state’s health care priorities. In the face of the pandemic, these rules are severely hampering health centers’ ability to care for patients and, in some cases, keep their doors open.
This issue brief outlines why these old payment rules are hurting patients during the COVID-19 crisis, and how transitioning to a new way of paying for care, called patient-centered payment, will allow health centers to better serve patients going forward.
*California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, 2018 Primary Care Clinic Annual Utilization Report, November 2019.