Analysis: Local health centers serve 22 million US patients

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Grants to community health centers have funded construction projects, renovations and new medical equipment.

“For many Americans, community health centers are the major source of care that ranges from prevention to treatment of chronic diseases," Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement last summer. “President Obama’s healthcare law is making our community health centers stronger."

Community health centers were started in the 1960s as part of President Johnson's War on Poverty. They are located in medically underserved areas where healthcare providers are scarce or nonexistent, and provide services priced by sliding scale.

The centers differ from free clinics in several respects, including their governance by community boards with a mandated patient majority of at least 51 percent.

NACHC also reported Friday that more than 36 percent of health center patients are uninsured, and that more than 39 percent receive coverage through Medicaid or SCHIP.

Seventy-one percent live below the poverty level, NACHC also said.