The Characteristics and Roles of Rural Health Clinics in the United States: A Chartbook


Reports on the results of a national survey of Rural Health Clinics (RHCs). Information was collected on a wide range of topics of concern to RHCs including: 1) the characteristics and operations of the clinics; 2) their location relative to the underservice problems and access needs of rural areas; 3) safety net functions of RHCs; 4) staffing, recruitment and financial issues; and 5) involvement in the training of healthcare professionals. Among the findings: most RHCs continue to serve rural, underserved communities; RHCs are filling a valuable safety net role by serving Medicaid, uninsured, and low-income patients and providing free and reduced cost care; recruitment and retention is a problem for RHCs, and some RHCs face continued financial challenges despite cost-based reimbursement. RHCs continue to be an important source of primary care and safety net services in rural communities. Legislative efforts to address concerns about the program have included the refinement of the shortage area criteria used by the RHC program (Balanced Budget Act of 1997) and the implementation of a Medicaid prospective payment system (Benefits Improvement and Protection Act of 2000). Additional research is needed to understand the impact of these changes on the RHCs and the residents of rural communities served by them.

Maine Rural Health Research Center
John Gale, Andrew Coburn