How to Become a Health Center

Two Paths into the Health Center Program

Eligible public and nonprofit private entities can become part of the Health Center Program through either: 

  • A successful application for Health Center Program funding or 
  • A successful application for look-alike designation.

Health centers must comply with all Health Center Program requirements and related Federal and State requirements. Organizations considering applying may receive technical assistance from their state or region’s Primary Care Association.

Health Center Program Funding

Organizations must apply for Health Center Program grant funding by submitting an application in response to a competitive open funding opportunity announcement. HRSA assesses applications for eligibility and reviews them through an objective process. All applicants receive written notification of the result of their application review, including a summary of strengths and weaknesses. Applicants selected for funding will receive a separate Notice of Award (NoA), the legal document issued to notify the recipient that an award has been made.

  • New Access Point (NAP) funding provides operational support for new health care service delivery sites (i.e., new access points) that will deliver comprehensive, culturally competent, quality primary health care services. Applicants must propose at least one full-time, permanent new access point site whose main purpose is primary medical care. Applications may be submitted from organizations that do not currently receive Health Center Program funding or from existing Health Center Program award recipients to expand their network of service delivery sites to new underserved populations and service areas. NAP funding is based on Congressional appropriation, therefore it may not be available every year. For information about the most recent NAP funding opportunity, see BPHC Funding Opportunities.
  • Service Area Competition (SAC) funding ensures continued access to comprehensive, culturally competent, quality primary health care services for communities and vulnerable populations currently served by the Health Center Program. Applications may be submitted by organizations that currently serve or propose to serve an announced service area and its associated populations. Only one award is funded for each announced service area. For information about the most recent SAC funding opportunities, see BPHC Funding Opportunities.

Health Center Program Look-Alike Designation

Organizations with Health Center Program look-alike designation do not receive Health Center Program funding, however, they are eligible for other Health Center Program benefits. They receive automatic Health Professional Shortage Area designation and may apply to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for reimbursement under FQHC Medicare and Medicaid payment methodologies. Look-alikes are eligible to purchase discounted drugs through the 340B Federal Drug Pricing Program and may access National Health Service Corps providers. 

Eligible organizations may apply for look-alike designation at any time.  For more information and application instructions, see Health Center Program Look-Alikes.

Date Last Reviewed:  January 2020