New Jersey's federally qualified health centers are very busy places -- understandably so, given that most of their patients are either uninsured or on Medicaid. But for Kathy Grant Davis, president of the New Jersey Primary Care Association, current capacity is only one of her concerns. She is looking to 2014, when federal healthcare reform will drive up the number of patients who rely on FQHCs.
In order to serve that growing population, Davis plans on opening another 30 FQHC locations. But Davis said keeping the expansion on track will hinge in large measure on New Jersey winning more federal money.
Currenlty New Jersey's 20 federaly qualified health centers operate 105 sites that deliver medical care to more than 400,000 patients statewide. That number is expected to surge above 500,000 when the Affordable Care Act expands Medicaid eligibility and brings subsidized health coverage to many of the state's low- and moderate-income residents.
New Jersey's FQHC expansion was launched in 2011 and approved by the federal government, Davis said. But federal money to fund new centers is disbursed through a competitive process among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Last year 900 proposed centers applied for funding; 70 were approved. New Jersey landed funding for one new center in Hackettstown, Davis said.
"We have to compete with Mississippi and Alaska and Louisiana for funding," Davis said. "Competition for those dollars is extremely tough." The federal government provides $650,000 a year for operating expense. Centers also are reimbursed by Medicaid New Jersey FamilyCare, the state's expansion of Medicaid. The centers also do fundraising to cover their operating budgets.
Davis said she is continuing to pursue the expansion plan, "and we hope that when the federal government announces a new round of grants, that we'll be more successful."
Freehold and Somerset are among the places new centers are being proposed, Davis said. Currently there are no FQHC sites in Somerset County, but because the county as a whole is fairly affluent, the center may not get federal funding. "But we know there are pockets where there is a need," she said. "So we are still moving ahead with our plan," to launch an FQHC in Somerset.
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