A Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) is a reimbursement designation from the Bureau of Primary Health Care and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. An FQHC is a community-based organization that provides comprehensive primary care and preventive care, including health, oral, and mental health/substance abuse services to persons of all ages, regardless of their ability to pay or health insurance status. Thus, it is a critical component of the health care safety net. FQHCs are automatically designated as health professional shortage facilities.
FQHCs operate under a consumer Board of Directors governance structure and function under the supervision of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which is part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). FQHCs were originally meant to provide comprehensive health services to the medically underserved to reduce the patient load on hospital emergency rooms. Their mission has changed since their founding. Their mission now is to enhance primary care services in underserved urban and rural communities. In particular, they serve underserved, underinsured, and uninsured Americans, including migrant workers and non-U.S. citizens. FQHCs provide their services to all persons regardless of ability to pay, and charge for services on a community board approved sliding-fee scale that is based on patients’ family income and size. In return for serving all patients regardless of ability to pay, the centers receive from the Federal government cash grant, cost-based reimbursement for their Medicaid patients, and malpractice coverage under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).