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Community Health Centers Celebrate Decades of Service

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, August 7, 2013

The National Association of Community Health Centers estimates that the nation's health centers serve about 22 million people each year, and save about $24 billion by providing proactive and preventative primary care for low-income and uninsured people that keeps them out of the emergency room. In addition to primary care, community health centers often provide behavioral health services, dental health services, pharmacy, wellness and nutrition programs, and health counselors for their patients.

"We are cost effective because we are primary care providers and our job is to keep people healthy and out of the hospital. That is our primary focus," Farrell says.

"Also, our patients don't have a lot of money and we have a lot of uninsured patients, so that impacts the way we practice. If you have a patient who doesn't have insurance coverage, you are not going to be ordering a gazillion lab tests or diagnostic studies because the patients just can't afford it. You are going to be a bit more cautious because our patients can't have it all when they want it. That is actually not such a bad thing because there is a lot of literature that suggests that an overuse of the healthcare system doesn't necessarily make you healthier or happier."

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