Since the nation’s first health centers opened in 1965, expansion of the federally-supported health center system to over 1,400 organizations has created an affordable health care option for more than 28 million people. Health centers help increase access to crucial primary care by reducing barriers such as cost, lack of insurance, distance, and language for their patients. In doing so, health centers provide substantial benefits to the country and its health care system.
The Rural Health Clinic (RHC) program is intended to increase access to primary care services for patients in rural communities. RHCs can be public, nonprofit, or for-profit healthcare facilities. To receive certification, they must be located in rural, underserved areas. They are required to use a team approach of physicians working with non-physician providers such as nurse practitioners (NP), physician assistants (PA), and certified nurse midwives (CNM) to provide services. The clinic must be staffed at least 50% of the time with a NP, PA, or CNM. RHCs are required to provide outpatient primary care services and basic laboratory services.