Community Health Centers Poised for Expansion
Gary M. Wiltz, MD, the newly elected chairman of the National Association of Community Health Centers, vows to expand the public profile of the organizations he calls "the base of primary preventive care."
Gary M. Wiltz, MD
Since the mid-1960s community health centers have done the heavy lifting and often thankless work of providing healthcare to poor and low-wage earners in underserved areas. In those decades they have proven their value and now serve about 22 million people who otherwise might go untreated. By some estimates community health centers will serve as many as 50 million people by 2019.
Gary M. Wiltz, MD, the newly elected chairman of the National Association of Community Health Centers, sees the role of community health centers growing dramatically over the next few years with the advent of the Affordable Care Act and its emphasis on population health and expanding Medicaid to improve access.
"We touch one in every 15 Americans right now, which is quite a statement about the expansion that we have enjoyed historically. We are projecting a lot of growth in the next five years, so there is a lot of work out there and a lot of people in need," says Wiltz, who also is the CEO at Teche Action Clinic in Franklin, LA.
"Quality is very important to us and we just want to make sure that we are making ourselves available and accessible. Our center here in Franklin is open six days a week, 12 hours a day, and a lot of our centers are trying to do extended hours to make sure we have the capacity to serve all of the newly insured that we hope when they come through our doors. It's the right thing to do for the country and the right thing to do by people."