Three More Health Care Clinics for the Houston Area

The greater Houston area will have three more Federally Qualified Health Care Clinics by the end of the year. The region continues to move forward with getting more FQHC's which officials hope will ease overcrowding in hospital emergency rooms. The clinics also will provide more access to the uninsured and underinsured.

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3,200 Federally Qualified Health Care Clinics exist across the country. The greater Houston area was late coming to the game and at the end of this year will have nine. Houston Mayor Bill White says the area needs to catch up.

But things are starting to change in Texas. State funds are helping clinics meet minimum standards inorder to apply for the federal funding. The three new centers are first, the Good Neighbor Health Center in the Fourth Ward, second, Spring Branch Community Health Center, and the third is the Northeast Community Health Clinic. Combined the centers are expected to serve about 21,000 patients. Each clinic will get about $650,000 a year for the next three to five years. The Bush administration established a goal of adding 1,200 more FQHC's in five years. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Doctor Elizabeth Duke is the administrator for the program that reviews the applications. Duke says they are now half way there with Texas seeing a significant number of new sites.

The federal funding usually amounts to about 25 percent of a clinics budget. The rest of the money typically comes from Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, and private individuals. Harris County Hospital District President and CEO David Lopez says the Houston area has 1.2 million uninsured and underinsured... the clinics just start to make a dent in the need.

Ben Taub and LBJ hospitals see about 185,000 visits between the two hospitals. Lopez says more than 60 percent of those are not trauma related.

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