Grant helps improve access to care for underserved communities in NY

Recently, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of New York partnered with Community Health Care Association of New York State (CHCANYS) through a $750,000 investment to support a grant program awarded to federally qualified health centers (FQHCs). This collaboration aims to help address health disparities and improve access to care for all New Yorkers.

New York has a relatively low uninsured rate, ranking 9th out of all 50 states, and is in the top quarter nationally for availability of health care providers. However, 8% of adult New Yorkers reported a time in the past 12 months when they needed to see a doctor but could not due to cost. 

Across the country, the high cost of health care is one of the major factors in avoiding needed care. But this is just one of many barriers, which can also include transportation issues, language barriers, negative interactions with providers and care teams, delayed access and issues with childcare or work schedules.

Community health centers play a vital role in overcoming these barriers and guiding patients through the health care system to access the care they need to live their healthiest lives and achieve optimal health. In New York, community health centers provide health care for 1 in 9 New Yorkers, regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay.

Improving and better supporting health centers in local communities can help New York better face some of the challenges to health equity statewide. Lack of health care access has long been associated with missed opportunities to prevent disease or manage chronic conditions, which can lead to worse and more expensive health outcomes.

  • 8.7% of New York state residents have three or more chronic health conditions.[1]
  • 9.9% of residents over 18 years old experience frequent physical distress while 13% experience frequent mental distress.
  • The state ranks 33rd in the country for access to adequate prenatal care for expectant mothers and 41st for adequate quality of developmental screenings for children, an important part of preventive care.

Patient-centered care and shared decision-making across the board can reduce costs by increasing health education and empowering patients to better choose cost-effective diagnostic tools and treatment options.

“Community health centers provide high-quality, whole-person care to anyone who walks through their doors – with community health care workers there to guide them through every step of the process and ensure all of their needs are met,” said Rose Duhan, CHCANYS president and CEO. “We are so grateful to UnitedHealthcare for providing funding that supports and enhances the work we all do to ensure all patients have access to the care they need and deserve.”

CHCANYS represents over 70 community health centers in the state, where they provide training and technical assistance in areas including clinical quality improvement and workforce development.

The grants will be awarded to FQHCs throughout New York to increase access to care coordinators and care navigators. The application-based program will invite any FQHC in New York state to apply for the grant funding, with awards ranging from $25,000 to $33,000 for up to 15 health centers. Funding recipients will establish a learning collaborative among community health centers utilizing community health workers to share best practices for staffing, training, engagement, and scope of work.

This investment is one of several UnitedHealthcare initiatives launched to address social determinants of health among the communities they serve. Last year, $1 million in grants was awarded as part of the Empowering Health Grants program to organizations in Buffalo, New York City and Syracuse to help those struggling with food insecurity, social isolation, behavioral health issues and more.

“We are dedicated to improving access to care for all New Yorkers, and this is just one part of achieving that goal,” said Dan Benardette, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of New York. “Community health workers play a critical role in supporting our members and we are excited about partnering with CHCANYS to expand their footprint at health centers throughout New York.”

To find out more about the Community Health Center Association of New York State and their work, visit: https://www.chcanys.org/.

[1] Data includes the following chronic health conditions: arthritis, asthma, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease (heart disease, heart attack or stroke), cancer (excluding skin), depression and diabetes.