What is a Health Center?

Health centers provide high quality preventive and primary health care to patients regardless of their ability to pay. Approximately 1 in 14 people in the U.S. relies on a HRSA-funded health center for medical care.

Nearly 1,400 health centers operate 9,800 service delivery sites in every U.S. state, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Pacific Basin; these health centers employ more than 170,000 staff who provide care for nearly 23 million patients. For millions of Americans, including some of the most vulnerable individuals and families, health centers are the essential medical home where they find services that promote health, diagnose and treat disease and disability and help them cope with environmental challenges that put them at risk.

How Health Centers Work

Health centers are public and private non-profit health care organizations that comply with Federal requirements to:

  • Serve a medically underserved population,
  • Provide appropriate and necessary services with fees adjusted on patients’ ability to pay,
  • Demonstrate sound clinical and financial management, and
  • Be governed by a board,  a majority of which includes health center patients.

Most of these health centers apply for and receive Health Center Program grant funding that, on average, constitutes about 18 percent of their operating revenue. The remainder comes from Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance, patient fees and other resources.

Seventy health centers meet all health center program requirements, but do not receive health center grant funding. These are called Health Center Program look-alikes.

Quality of Care

Health center quality of care equals and often surpasses that provided by other primary care providers. Overall, health centers emphasize coordinated primary and preventive services or a “medical home” that promotes reductions in health disparities for low‐income individuals, racial and ethnic minorities, rural communities and other underserved populations. Two-thirds of health centers have been designated as patient centered medical homes, which means they emphasize care coordination and communication to improve quality, lower costs and enhance both the patient and provider experience.

Health Centers May Leverage Related Programs

Health Center Awardees use Federal grant funding to offset the costs of uncompensated care, enabling services and other operational costs.

Many also gain access to medical malpractice coverage under Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), and some receive Federal loan guarantees for capital improvements.

All health centers, including look-alikes, gain access to programs:

Health Centers Serve

Download Full Infographic (JPG - 1.3 MB)

Infographic depicting the total number of people, children, people in poverty, homeless patients, farmworker patients, school-based patients, public housing patients, and veteran patients served by health centers in the US.