New program supports FQHCs during COVID-19 and beyond

Federally-qualified health centers (FQHCs) play a critical role in serving our members. But COVID-19 has brought new challenges to these centers, leaving many struggling to provide care during the national public health emergency. To help these centers address the crisis and build capacity for their long-term sustainability, UnitedHealthcare Community & State launched the FQHC Transformation Investments Program.

The program’s opt-in window was effective from March through June 30, 2020, and provided FQHCs the chance to opt into pathways to help build their center’s capacity to serve the needs of their current and future patients. Each pathway represented a population we collectively serve and aimed to address the specific needs of those individuals. 

FQHCs could choose from the following pathways:

  • Healthy children
  • Healthy pregnancy
  • Living with chronic conditions
  • Integrating behavioral and physical health
  • Addressing the pandemic

For each pathway, FQHCs chose at least one of the following capacity-building focuses:

  • Telemedicine and digital engagement
  • Novel care strategies
  • Transitions of care
  • Collaboration with community organizations
  • Addressing social needs
  • Other (specific to addressing the pandemic pathway)

Of the pathway options, FQHCs most commonly chose Addressing the Pandemic, followed by Living with Chronic Conditions. For areas of focus, centers most often chose to pursue Telemedicine and Digital Engagement, with COVID-19 as the second most popular choice.

Funding helps establish new FQHC projects

Qualifying FQHCs included those that participated in the UnitedHealthcare Community Plan network and had 500 or more eligible plan members. Nearly all 300 eligible centers across 22 states enrolled in the program and collectively received more than $20 million in funding for their selected pathways and areas of focus. 

Because of the urgent need for these types of projects due to COVID-19, UnitedHealthcare delivered funding less than a month after the program was first created. This quick turnaround helped support our members quickly and gave FQHCs the funds to continue their mission to improve health outcomes for underserved populations, many of whom are already at-risk during the pandemic.

Strengthening  relationships to improve care for our members

Because of the wide variety of projects initiated under this program, local FQHC chief executive officers and chief medical officers have been tasked with defining and measuring project success for their centers. This helps encourage ongoing relationships between UnitedHealthcare leaders and each FQHC. These partnerships will ultimately help us serve our members better as we collaborate, create new innovative programs and engage in conversations around value-based arrangements.

By identifying these types of needs and finding new ways to address them, we will continue to serve our members as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. 

Read more from Catherine Anderson and Dr. Stephen Cha

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