Nov. 8, 2019 | InBrief

Access for the underserved: The role of federally qualified health centers in Minnesota

Access for the underserved: The role of federally qualified health centers in Minnesota

In August 2019, Neighborhood HealthSource (NHS), a Minneapolis-area Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), announced its acquisition of North Metro Pediatrics (NMP). The move expands their presence into Minneapolis’ Northern suburbs. NHS, like FQHCs around the country, serves an important function: providing affordable access to healthcare for underserved communities.

NHS started in 1971 by offering two “free clinics” operated by volunteers in community centers. Today, NHS runs four clinics across Northeast Minneapolis offering a full spectrum of health maintenance, screening, disease prevention, and health management services for all ages. The addition of NMP will allow NHS to expand its presence into the northern suburbs as well as build out their pediatric capabilities.

Moves like this have a direct impact on the social and economic conditions of their communities—when an FQHC adds facilities or services, the result is improved access to affordable healthcare for more people as well as a boost in economic activity through job creation and partnerships.

Federal funding allows FQHCs to focus on being patient-centric without worrying about generating revenue.

FQHCs are an important source of care for Americans in underserved communities, treating anyone, regardless of insurance or financial status and providing a breadth of integrated, personalized services—medical, social, mental health, and substance abuse treatment services.

Additionally, the opportunity FQHCs have to establish partnerships with both public and private healthcare practices puts them in unique positions to form integrated care networks across their communities. This is often viewed as mutually beneficial for hospitals as well, as it opens additional channels for those to seek care who may be uninsured or relay on Medicare and Medicaid.

Minnesota’s commitment to FQHCs is one reason for the state’s status as a leader in healthcare innovation.

As population health initiatives become more important on the national stage, it is imperative local organizations—like FQHCs—are available to provide services to those in need, including services for preventative, behavioral, and dental health in addition to the management of chronic illnesses. In 2017, Minnesota FQHCs saw a total of 698,634 visits from 182,554 patients across the state. As of that year, there were 16 grantee organizations providing care across 83 sites in the state for those using Medicare, Medicaid, or who have no insurance coverage at all. Of those 182,554 patients, 26% were pediatric patients and 93% were at or below 200% poverty.

In addition to providing healthcare access to communities in need, Minnesota’s investment in FQHCs directly benefits the state’s local economies. A recent report from the National Association of Community Health Centers (NAHC) states that every $1 in federal investments produces $4.69 in economic activity in the state. In total, FQHCs in Minnesota deliver $417.5 million in economic activity, thus supporting the case that FQHC development not only expands the reach of the state’s healthcare services, but also strengthens the surrounding economy, creating additional jobs and community partnerships.

FQHCs provide value to the communities they serve and to the local healthcare ecosystems in which they operate.

West Monroe’s Minneapolis office is deeply rooted in the local community, with representation in numerous non-profit boards as well as involvement in community initiatives centered on healthcare quality and access. In February of 2019, West Monroe was asked to provide advisory guidance on NHS’s acquisition of NMP – focusing on evaluating capabilities related to clinical coordination and care delivery, as well as a review of back-end and administrative processes and technology. West Monroe is proud to have played a part in extending this valuable FQHC’s presence and expanding their scope of services. And as the healthcare landscape in Minnesota continues to shift, largely fueled by uncertainty around the Affordable Care Act as well as an increase in the number of uninsured Minnesotans, it is now more important than ever to support NHS and other FQHCs so they can focus on what truly matters: providing quality, affordable care to those in need.

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