Federal Health Centers: An Overview

Federal Health Centers: An Overview. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Elayne J. Heisler. May 19, 2017

The federal Health Center Program is authorized in Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) (42 U.S.C. §254b) and administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services. The program awards grants to support outpatient primary care facilities that provide care to primarily low-income individuals or individuals located in areas with few health care providers.

Federal health centers are required to provide health care to all individuals, regardless of their ability to pay, and to be located in geographic areas with few health care providers. These requirements make health centers part of the health safety net—providers that serve the uninsured, the underserved, or those enrolled in Medicaid. Data compiled by HRSA demonstrate that health centers serve the intended safety net population, as the majority of patients are uninsured or enrolled in Medicaid. Some research also suggests that health centers are cost-effective; researchers have found that patients seen at health centers have lower health care costs than those served in other settings. In general, research has found that health centers, among other outcomes, improve health, reduce costs, and provide access to health care for populations that may otherwise not obtain health care.

[PDF format, 38 pages, 1 MB].

Frequently Asked Questions About Prescription Drug Pricing and Policy

Frequently Asked Questions About Prescription Drug Pricing and Policy. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Suzanne M. Kirchhoff, Judith A. Johnson, Susan Thaul. May 2, 2017

Prescription drugs play an important role in the U.S. health care system. Innovative, breakthrough drugs are providing cures for diseases such as hepatitis C and helping individuals with chronic conditions lead fuller lives. Studies show that prescription drug therapy can produce health care savings by reducing the number of hospitalizations and other costly medical procedures.

Congress has attempted to ensure that Americans have access to pharmaceuticals by enacting the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit as part of the Medicare Modernization and Prescription Drug Act of 2003 (MMA; P.L. 108-173) and expanding drug coverage under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended). Congress also has enacted laws to encourage manufacturing of lower-cost generic drugs, as well as cutting-edge biologics and biosimilars.

Americans are using more prescription drugs, and for longer periods of time, than in past decades. Still, access to prescription drugs remains a real issue for a number of consumers, particularly those without insurance; those prescribed expensive specialty drugs for treating serious or rare diseases; or those enrolled in private insurance or public health plans with high cost-sharing requirements, such as drug deductibles and coinsurance.

[PDF format, 37 pages, 1.14 MB].

Urban Blight and Public Health: Addressing the Impact of Substandard Housing, Abandoned Buildings, and Vacant Lots

Urban Blight and Public Health: Addressing the Impact of Substandard Housing, Abandoned Buildings, and Vacant Lots. Urban Institute. Erwin de Leon, Joseph Schilling. April 11, 2017

We spend more than 2/3rds of our time where we live; thus, housing and neighborhood conditions invariably affect our individual and family’s well-being. The health impacts from blighted properties—substandard housing, abandoned buildings, and vacant lots—are often not immediately visible or felt. This report—Urban Blight and Public Health—synthesizes recent studies on the complexities of how blight affects the health of individuals and neighborhoods while offering a blend of policy and program recommendations to help guide communities in taking a more holistic and coordinated approach, such as expanding the use of health impact assessments, tracking health outcomes, and infusing public health into housing policies, codes and practices. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 44 pages, 858.33 KB].

The Evolving Role of Retail Clinics

The Evolving Role of Retail Clinics. RAND Corporation. November 10, 2016.

Retail clinics are medical clinics located in pharmacies, grocery stores, and “big box” stores, such as Target and Walmart. These clinics offer extended weekend and evening hours, walk-in availability, and short wait times. Many visits to retail clinics are in the evenings and weekends, when primary care offices are not available. The clinics treat a limited range of health conditions, such as minor infections and injuries, and provide vaccines and other preventive care. Care is delivered by a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. Prices are typically fixed and transparent.
Retail clinics have been proposed as an alternative to costly emergency department care for nonemergency conditions. It has been estimated that up to 20 percent of emergency department visits for a nonemergency condition could take place at a retail clinic or urgent care center, potentially generating cost savings as high as $4.4 billion annually. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 4 pages, 128.5 KB].

Biologics and Biosimilars: Background and Key Issues

Biologics and Biosimilars: Background and Key Issues. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Judith A. Johnson. September 7, 2016.

A biological product, or biologic, is a preparation, such as a drug or a vaccine, that is made from living organisms. Compared with conventional chemical drugs, biologics are relatively large and complex molecules. They may be composed of proteins, carbohydrates, nucleic acids, or combinations of these substances. Biologics may also be cells or tissues used in transplantation. A biosimilar, sometimes referred to as a follow-on biologic, is a therapeutic drug that is similar but not structurally identical to the brand-name biologic made by a pharmaceutical or biotechnology company. In contrast to the relatively simple structure and manufacture of chemical drugs, biosimilars, with their more complex nature and method of manufacture, will not be identical to the brand-name product, but may instead be shown to be highly similar. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates both biologics and chemical drugs.

[PDF format, 28 pages, 800.70 KB].

Reducing the Risks from Rapid Demographic Change

Reducing the Risks from Rapid Demographic Change. Atlantic Council. Matthew J. Burrows. September 9, 2016.

According to the report, the West’s postwar social welfare system is under growing threat as the global demographic structure is being turned upside down. And it is not just the West, but also China and other middle-income powers who will have to deal with an aging workforce and unsustainable health and pension costs in the next decade. For sub-Saharan African countries whose birthrates remain high, overpopulation carries big costs not only for them, but for the rest of the world, which will depend on them for a growing proportion of the world’s workforce. Burrows explores how longer life expectancies, aging workforces, and high birthrates will affect the future economic growth and development of countries around the world. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 30 pages, 4.53 MB].

Half of Americans Say Threats From Infectious Diseases Are Growing

Half of Americans Say Threats From Infectious Diseases Are Growing. Pew Research Center. Lee Rainie and Cary Funk. July 8, 2016.

The Zika virus has become a concern to many Americans, and its emergence fits into a broader pattern of public concern that the number of infectious disease threats to people’s health has grown in the past generation. Some 51% of adults say there are more infectious disease threats today than there were 20 years ago. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 15 pages, 379.22 KB].