Health Care Use and Spending for Medicaid Enrollees in Federally Qualified Health Centers Versus Other Primary Care Settings

Am J Public Health. 2016 Nov;106(11):1981-1989. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303341. Epub 2016 Sep 15.


Objectives: To compare health care use and spending of Medicaid enrollees seen at federally qualified health centers versus non-health center settings in a context of significant growth.

Methods: Using fee-for-service Medicaid claims from 13 states in 2009, we compared patients receiving the majority of their primary care in federally qualified health centers with propensity score-matched comparison groups receiving primary care in other settings.

Results: We found that health center patients had lower use and spending than did non-health center patients across all services, with 22% fewer visits and 33% lower spending on specialty care and 25% fewer admissions and 27% lower spending on inpatient care. Total spending was 24% lower for health center patients.

Conclusions: Our analysis of 2009 Medicaid claims, which includes the largest sample of states and more recent data than do previous multistate claims studies, demonstrates that the health center program has provided a cost-efficient setting for primary care for Medicaid enrollees.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Financing, Personal / economics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicaid / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care / economics
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Safety-net Providers / economics*
  • Safety-net Providers / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States