Can I become a Federally Qualified Health Center?

Federally Qualified Health Centers (“FQHC”) are community-based healthcare providers that receive money for providing primary care services to under-served populations or areas. FQHCs were enacted under Section 1861(aa) of the Social Security Act and was amended by Section 4161 of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990.

FQHCs are required to adhere to certain criteria, including, but not limited to, providing comprehensive healthcare services (either on-site or by arrangement with another provider) on a sliding fee scale based on ability to pay and operating under a governing board that includes patients. These comprehensive services may include: (1) preventive health services; (2) dental services; (3) mental health and substance abuse services; (4) Transportation services necessary for adequate patient care; and (5) hospital and specialty care. FQHCs must also implement an ongoing quality assurance program.


FQHC Certification

To be certified as an FQHC, a healthcare provider must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Receive a grant under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (“PHS Act”) or receive funding from such a grant and meets other requirements.
  • Is not receiving a grant under Section 330 of the PHS Act but is determined by the Secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services to meet the requirements for receiving such a grant based on the recommendation of the Health Resources and Services Administration (“HRSA”).
  • Was treated by the Secretary of HHS for purposes of Medicare Part B as a comprehensive Federally-funded health center as of January 1, 1990.
  • Is operating as an outpatient health program or facility of a tribe or tribal organization under the Indian Self-Determination Act or as an urban Indian organization receiving funds under Title V of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act as of October 1991.


For certification as an FQHC, the entity must meet all of these requirements:

  • Provide comprehensive services and have an ongoing quality assurance program
  • Meet other health and safety requirements
  • Not be concurrently approved as a Rural Health Clinic.


FQHC Eligibility

Once eligible, FQHCs will qualify for funding under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act, as well as, enhanced reimbursement form Medicare and Medicaid. FQHCs are paid based on the FQHC Prospective Payment System (“PPS”) for medically-necessary primary health services and qualified preventive health services furnished by a FQHC practitioner.


Examples of FQHC

A FQHC visit is medically-necessary face-to-face medical or mental health visit or a qualified preventive health visit between the patient and a physician, NP, PA, CNM, CP, or CSW during which time one or more qualified FQHC services are furnished.  FQHCs include:

  • Community health centers
  • Migrant health centers
  • Healthcare for the homeless health centers
  • Health centers for residents of public housing
  • Health center program “look-alikes”


Telehealth Services

FQHCs are authorized to serve as an originating site for telehealth services if the FQHC is located in a qualifying area. An originating site is the location of an eligible Medicare patient at the time the service being furnished via a telecommunications system occurs. FQHCs that serve as an originating site for telehealth services are paid an originating site facility fee.

FQHCs are not authorized to serve as a distant site for telehealth consultations. A distant site is the location of the practitioner at the time the telehealth service is furnished. The cost of a visit may not be billed or included on the cost report.


FQHC Reimbursements

FQHCs set their own charges for the services they provide and determine which services to include in the bundle of services associated with each FQHC code. Charges must be uniform for all patients.

Payment is for professional services only. Laboratory tests and the technical component of billable visits are paid separately. Procedures are included int eh payment of an otherwise qualified visit and are not separately billable. If a procedure is associated with a qualified visit, include the charges for the procedure on the claim with the visit.


It should be noted that I am not your lawyer (unless you have presently retained my services through a retainer agreement). This post is not intended as legal advice, it is purely educational and informational, and no attorney-client relationship shall result after reading it. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice. If you do not have one and would like to retain my legal services please contact me using the information listed above.

All of the information and references made to laws, regulations, and advisory opinions were accurate based on the law as it existed at this time, but laws are constantly evolving. Please contact me to be sure that the law which will govern your business is current. Thank you.