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CHCs as Training Grounds for Primary Care Physicians

Cora Nucci, for HealthLeaders Media, October 27, 2010

Amid all the anguish in the medical community over changes to come from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, perhaps this is the most daunting: the expected doubling in size of the patient load.

The national problem of too few primary care physicians is only going to get worse. And for rural areas, where there are one-fourth fewer doctors per person than urban areas, the right word to use is "crisis." In fact, 68% of the communities with federally designated doctor shortages are rural.

But a report published by the National Association of Community Health Centers lays out the strengths of the community health center system and proposes that CHCs have an important role to play in training future primary care docs.  

While hospitals across the country are jockeying for position by gobbling each other up in complicated financial transactions, the nation's Community Health Centers are quietly making preparations of their own.

With nearly $1 billion in federal funding announced this month alone,  and much of that earmarked specifically to increase access to preventive and primary healthcare, CHCs are in a position to make wide-reaching and long-term impact on healthcare.

Here's how they can do it:
Training: The ACA authorizes a program called Teaching Health Center (THC) that provides payments to eligible “teaching health centers” to cover the direct and indirect costs of primary care residency training. NACHC's report calls CHC residency training programs "extremely effective tools for the recruitment and retention of family practice physicians into community-based practice."

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