Mary's Center is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC)
What is a FQHC?
FQHCs are community-based, participant-directed organizations that serve populations with limited access to health care, including low income people, the uninsured, and those with limited English proficiency.
An FQHC provides comprehensive medical services – including primary/preventive care, dentistry, and mental health/substance abuse services – to persons of all ages, regardless of their ability to pay. FQHCs also provide supportive services – such as education, translation and transportation – that make it easier for participants to access health care.
In return for serving all participants regardless of ability to pay, FQHCs receive annual funding from the federal government, through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
There are FQHCs in every state in the U.S. – nearly 8,000 locations in all.
What makes FQHCs unique?
FQHCs serve all people, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. They accept all forms of insurance (private and public), and participants who do not have insurance pay using a sliding-fee scale based on family income and size. There are no income requirements or restrictions for FQHC participants.
FQHCs must comply with program requirements established by the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA), which is the branch of HHS that oversees their activities. Among those requirements are:
• A majority of the FQHC’s Board of Directors must be participants of the health center. This ensures that the services remain participant-directed and appropriate for the community that is being served.
• Each FQHC reports annually on medical quality and financial stability, using standard measures tracked by all centers in the country. This allows HRSA to maintain quality throughout the system and to make sure that the federal money invested in the health center system is being used wisely.
• FQHCs serve and are located in communities that are designated Medically Underserved Area (MUA) and/or Medically Underserved Population (MUP) because of a documented lack of health care resources.
In addition to the annual grant to fund health care services, FQHCs receive other benefits from the government, including:
• Coverage under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which replaces private malpractice insurance for the center’s medical care providers.
• Special, higher reimbursement rates through Medicare and Medicaid for the care of particpants covered under those programs.
• Access to other federal grants that fund health care and supporting services.
Mary’s Center History in the FQHC Program
Mary’s Center was founded in 1988, but it didn’t join the FQHC program until 2005. The application process took more than a year to complete, and staff members from HRSA worked closely with Mary’s Center to make sure that all financial and clinical standards would be met.
We renew our FQHC status with HRSA every year by submitting financial information and data on the health outcomes of our participants. Some of the medical data we track are:
• How many of our diabetic participants keep their blood sugar at a healthy level
• How many of our very young participants receive their required immunizations
• How many of our female participants receive periodic screening for cervical cancer
• How many of our pregnant participants receive proper prenatal care, and how many of their babies are born at a healthy weight
All the medical data we submit to HRSA is completely anonymous, and the privacy of our participants is always protected. We are bound by the same participant privacy laws that all private physicians must obey.