Mendocino Community Health Clinic is a community health center designated as a “Federally Qualified Health Center,” or FQHC, which means we are funded under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act. The FQHC program provides for cost-based reimbursement under Medicare and Medicaid for legislatively specified services in medically underserved areas. FQHCs began as the Community Health Centers and Migrant Health Centers of the 1960s and 1970s focusing on primary care, health education, and prevention.
FQHCs are governed by a community board composed of a majority of health center patients who represent the people who receive care at the FQHC. FQHCs provide comprehensive primary health care services as well as supportive services like transportation to promote culturally appropriate access to care for all. A sliding fee scale ensures that no one is turned away for inability to pay, and FQHCs are held to strict standards for performance and accountability regarding administrative, clinical and financial operations.
Some people get confused between Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) and FQHCs. Both designations allow for federal funding of health care for underserved populations.
Most doctors’ offices use a fee-for-service practice, in which revenue is estimated on the basis of procedures like office visits, lab tests, and x-rays. In an RHC and/or FQHC, revenue is estimated on an average cost per visit and a flat payment is received regardless of the number or type of procedures provided during a visit. Federal funding pays for 80 percent of the care and the patient pays for 20 percent. If a patient cannot afford their share, they are not turned away and payment arrangements are made through the sliding scale, based upon the patient’s income.
FQHCs are able to provide health care at a lower cost than other healthcare organizations, in part because they benefit from the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) that provides malpractice insurance at a below-market rate and from lower-cost pharmaceuticals through a program called 340B.
For more information about FQHCs, click here to visit HRSA's website.