Background: Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) provide primary care for millions of Americans, but little is known about Medicare beneficiaries who use FQHCs.
Objective: To compare patient characteristics and health care service use among Medicare beneficiaries stratified by FQHC use.
Research design: Cross-sectional analysis of 2011 Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries aged 65 years and older.
Subjects: Subjects included beneficiaries with at least 1 evaluation and management (E&M) visit in 2011, categorized as FQHC users (≥1 E&M visit to FQHCs) or nonusers living in the same primary care service areas as FQHC users. Users were subclassified as predominant if the majority of their E&M visits were to FQHCs.
Measures: Demographic characteristics, physician visits, and inpatient care use.
Results: Most FQHC users (56.6%) were predominant users. Predominant and nonpredominant users, compared with nonusers, markedly differed by prevalence of multiple chronic conditions (18.2%, 31.7% vs. 22.7%) and annual mortality (2.8%, 3.8% vs. 4.0%; all P<0.05). In adjusted analyses (reference: nonusers), predominant users had fewer physician visits (RR=0.81; 95% CI, 0.81-0.81) and fewer hospitalizations (RR=0.84; 95% CI, 0.84-0.85), whereas nonpredominant users had higher use of both types of service (RR=1.18, 95% CI, 1.18-1.18; RR=1.09, 95% CI, 1.08-1.10, respectively).
Conclusions: Even controlling for primary care delivery markets, nonpredominant FQHC users had a higher burden of chronic illness and service use than predominant FQHC users. It will be important to monitor Medicare beneficiaries using FQHCs to understand whether primary care only payment incentives for FQHCs could induce fragmented care.