GAO Releases Report on Health Centers

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report: “Health Centers: Revenue, Grant Funding, and Methods for Meeting Certain Access-to-Care Requirements” that highlights how Community Health Center revenue increased from $26.3 billion in 2017 to $42.9 billion in 2022. Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) released a misleading statement about the report. Their press release emphasizes – in both the title and text – that health center total revenues increased by 60% between 2018 and 2022. The report is accurate, but fails to emphasize the reasons why health center funding has increased, including:

  • Medicaid Enrollment Increases. Higher Medicaid enrollment led to higher Medicaid reimbursement. Seven states expanded Medicaid during this time period adding about 2.8 million additional patients.
  • Temporary Funding Increases. A significant portion of the increased funding was temporary COVID-19 emergency funding that has now expired.
  • Patient Volume Increases. Importantly, health centers are now serving 2 million more patients since 2017, increasing revenue.
  • Inflation. The report does not adjust the revenue increases for inflation.

What the report doesn’t discuss is that the Medicaid Unwinding that started in 2023 has led to significant financial challenges for health centers; a recent NACHC survey found an average $600,000 loss per health center as a result of the unwinding. In addition, following expiration of the temporary pandemic funding, high inflation and workforce shortages are leaving health centers financially insecure. NACHC has released a statement providing additional context to media outlets and will provide resources to educate Hill offices about the financial pressure health centers face.