By: Trimmel Gomes
Florida's Community Health Centers are raising
concerns about their own financial health due to what they've said are
inadequate Medicaid reimbursement rates.
The centers are urging lawmakers to adjust the rates to cover what they've found to be a gap of $106, or just over 42%, for every Medicaid patient visit.
Bradley Herremans, CEO of Suncoast Community Health Centers in Hillsborough County, said filling the funding gap could enable them to expand services and even open new clinics, while failure to do so would force them to curtail or close some services, disproportionately affecting low-income populations.
"The population is just growing exponentially around here, and that just drives the additional need for additional services," Herremans explained. "You can kind of see where you start to get that 'crunch,' between revenue and what's expected of a Community Health Center."
Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, president of the Senate, achieved unanimous passage of her "Live Healthy" proposal, Senate Bill 7016, touted as a plan to increase the state's health-care workforce. Health centers are optimistic lawmakers will address funding gaps in budget negotiations between the House and Senate.
Jonathan Chapman, president and CEO of the Florida Association of Community Health Centers, said they comprise 54 centers spanning over 800 locations. He does not expect any one entity to make them whole.
"We're looking at a $40 million 'ask' of state recurring funds," Chapman pointed out. "This would also be leveraged with federal dollars, so with the state's $40 million investment, we would actually leverage that and it would be close to a $100 million investment, which really equates to about $22 per FQHC patient."
FQHCs are Federally Qualified Health Centers. Annually, Chapman said the centers provide care to 1.8 million patients, with 51% covered by Medicare or Medicaid, and 28% uninsured. He added more than 87% of patients served by Community Health Centers live below the Federal Poverty Level.
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