A Kaiser Health News analysis of the latest federal data on the nation’s nearly 1,200 community health centers showed wide variation in the quality of care delivered by the private, nonprofit clinics that are expected to play an important role under federal healthcare reform.
More than 20 million people, mostly the poor and uninsured, receive primary care services at federally funded health centers. Of particular interest was that even community health centers in the same city often performed very differently. “We hope clinics can learn from this information, [because] we need a safety net that survives and thrives,” Anthony Wright, executive direct of Health Access Claifornia, a consumer advocacy group, told Kaiser Health News. Wright attributed the variation to the fact that some clinics treat a large number of patients speaking multiple languages, or who lack insurance and who may be reluctant to buy medicine or follow through with other treatments, or who are migrants or homeless. The National Association of Community Health Centers said it questions the usefulness of the data, noting that the results were not adjusted for patient health status or to account for centers with high rates of migrants, the homeless, or the uninsured.