A 5 minute read
FQHC
July 1, 2019

A Federally Qualified Health Center, or FQHC, is a clinic that provides comprehensive primary and preventive care to patients of all ages in under-served and rural areas. FQHCs are required to accept all patients, regardless of their ability to pay or health insurance status, and are also known as Community/Migrant Health Centers (C/MHCs), Community Health Centers (CHCs), and 330 Funded Clinics.

FQHCs receive higher reimbursement rates from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) than other facilities, as established in Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (PHS). 

What are the types of FQHCs?

  1. Federally Qualified Health Center - An FQHC is an administrative parent that receives a Section 330 grant. Upon receiving the grant they receive the FQHC designation.
  2. Federally Qualified Health Center Look-alike - An FQHC look-alike serves the same administrative purposes as an FQHC, however it did not receive a section 330 grant
  3. Federally Qualified Health Center Service Site - An FQHC Service Site is a location providing services for a qualified FQHC. All FQHC Service Sites have an FQHC parent.
  4. Federally Qualified Health Center Look-alike Service Site - An FQHC look-alike Service Site can operate under an FQHC or an FQHC look-alike. A service site may be classified as a look-alike because they were added after the grant funding for the current year was issued (and is not included in that grant) or because the administrative parent did not receive section 330 funding and was then designated as an FQHC look-alike.

How many FQHCs are there in the US?

There are currently 1,368 official FQHC locations in the U.S., but the FQHC look-alikes and service sites bring that number closer to 14,200.

Type of FQHC # of FQHCs in U.S.
Federally Qualified Health Centers 1,370
Federally Qualified Health Center Look-alikes 81
Federally Qualified Health Center Service Site 12,409
Federally Qualified Health Center Look-alike Service Site 334
TOTAL 14,194
Fig 1: FQHCs in the U.S. tracked by Definitive Healthcare's FQHC platform, June 2019

These centers see a large volume of patients, particularly in California:

FQHCs with the Highest Number of Total Patient Visits

FQHC Name Location Type of FQHC Total Patient Visits
Ventura County Healthcare Agency Ventura, CA Federally Qualified Health Center 550,557
Family Healthcare Network Visalia, CA Federally Qualified Health Center 472,555
Borrego Community Health Foundation Riverside, CA Federally Qualified Health Center 446,778
Valley Health Center at Gilroy Gilroy, CA Federally Qualified Health Center Service Site 424,079
County of Santa Clara San Jose, CA Federally Qualified Health Center 424,079
Fig 2: FQHCs in the U.S. with the highest number of total patient visits, from Definitive Healthcare's FQHC platform, June 2019


Of all FQHCs that Definitive Healthcare tracks, California leads the pack in terms of total patient visits. The state's high volume of FQHCs, and patients flowing through these FQHCs, is likely attributed to a large population and significant enrollment in Medi-Cal: California’s version of Medicaid. 

What are the features of a FQHC?

In order to be a qualified entity in the federal health center program, an organization must:

  • Offer services to all, regardless of the person's ability to pay
  • Establish a sliding fee discount program
  • Be a nonprofit or public organization
  • Be community-based, with the majority of its governing board of directors composed of patients
  • Serve a medically underserved area or population
  • Provide comprehensive primary care services
  • Have an ongoing quality assurance program

These health centers provide a comprehensive set of health services including primary care, behavioral health, chronic disease management, preventive care, and other services, which may include radiology, laboratory services, dental, transportation, translation, and social services.

Which populations seek care at FQHCs most often?

The purpose of FQHCs is to serve communities that may have financial disadvantages, language barriers, geographic barriers, or other specific needs.

According to the HRSA, 1 in 12 people across the United States rely on FQHCs for care including 3.5 publicly housed patients, 1.4 million homeless patients, 1 million agricultural workers, and more than 355,000 veterans.

Although FQHCs are an essential part of health care, they still face some challenges. Due to the large volume of patients that these clinics serve, wait times for an appointment can be lengthy. In addition, there is usually a high turnover of providers at FQHCs, which impacts continuity of care. But, despite challenges with scheduling and provider turnover, FQHCs play a major role in ensuring equitable care for the underserved.

Learn More

With data on approximately 14,200 FQHCs throughout the U.S., Definitive Healthcare can help you find:

  • Analyze specific FQHC markets (as defined by region, population, or other parameters) to measure demand for certain pharmaceuticals based on the most common diagnoses.
  • Define your target market by region, state, geographic classification (urban, rural) CBSA population growth, source of funding, and network affiliations.
  • Receive alerts whenever FQHCs submit RFPs or certificates of need for new equipment and analyze total payments for specific procedures to review current demand.
  • See how many full-time physicians and nurse practitioners are on site and compare those resources with the total number of annual visits.

FQHC-database-scn-1-1

Fig 4: A quick (not fully-comprehensive) look at the Jordan Valley Community Health Center from the Definitive Healthcare platform

…And much more!

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