Michael Richards, Penn News, Primary Care Access

Michael Richards, Penn News, Primary Care Access

At the same time the Affordable Care Act has increased the number of previously uninsured people capable of now seeking primary care appointments, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) have become the most accessible venues providing those services, according to LDI Fellow Michael Richards.

Richards, MD, MPH, PhD, was lead author on a new "secret shopper" study that sought to document the level of primary care access across ten states. Co-authors of the study were LDI Senior Fellows Brendan Saloner, PhD; Karin Rhodes, MD, MS; and Dan Polsky, PhD.

Conducted in collaboration with the Urban Institute, the study utilized trained auditors, posing as patients requesting the first available new patient appointment. The callers were randomized to make 10,904 calls to primary care providers -- including 544 calls to FQHCs, which turned out to have the highest new-patient acceptance rates.

Richards told Penn News this indicated that FQHCs, "will be an important source of primary care for these underserved populations moving forward, as more patients become insured under the Affordable Care Act. This study suggests that FQHCs provide better availability and lower-cost options for these new patients, so it will be important to continue tracking FQHCs' accommodation of patients from these insurance groups in the early years of health care reform."