Community health centers offer a model of how to fix ailing US system
Cheers to Dr. Michael Apkon (“What level of disparity in health care are we willing to tolerate?” Opinion, Aug. 1) It’s time for Americans to demand action to fix our broken health care system. But we need not look to other countries for a better way. We already have a model solution.
The nation’s community health centers were launched in Boston in 1965. Community residents joined with two physician-activists from Tufts Medical School to increase health care accessibility for a medically underserved neighborhood. That demonstration was so successful that the late US Senator Edward M. Kennedy secured federal support to replicate community health centers across the country and later, in 1975, helped make them a permanent federally funded program under the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Through these federally and locally supported health centers, 28 million lower-income patients across the United States receive the broad range of primary and preventive care services that Apkon sees as critical to increasing the health of the nation and lowering our health care costs.
This model of care has a proven record. As a result of keeping patients engaged in primary care and less reliant on expensive emergency, hospital, and specialty care, health centers save $1,263 per patient per year. In Massachusetts, those savings amount to $2 billion annually.
Community health centers could be the foundation of America’s health care system. We should build on their success.
James W. Hunt Jr.
President and CEO
Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers