Exactly a year ago today, Advocates for Community Health (ACH) made its national debut with an exclusive announcement in POLITICO Pulse. Our team and our founding members were excited to share our collective vision. A vision where bold, forward-thinking federal policies align with innovative, hyper-local healthcare hubs—otherwise known as federally qualified health centers (FQHCs)—to build the health system of the future.
These past twelve months have been a whirlwind of activity and we are encouraged by the progress we have been able to make in such a short time. Some of our most memorable milestones include:
- Our inaugural policy planning meeting in August 2021: We convened our board of directors and our executive policy advisory council in Denver, CO for a 2-day strategy meeting where we finalized ACH’s policy priorities and charted the path forward for the year ahead. Leaders from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) and strategic partners joined us to brainstorm ways to work together to scale best practices and incentivize innovation across the FQHC network.
- Elevating urgent workforce and funding challenges for FQHCs through earned and paid media efforts: ACH has been working diligently to introduce national and trade media to the impactful work FQHCs are doing across the country and highlight the need for urgent action from leaders in Washington to ensure that work can continue. In 2022 alone, we have hosted a press briefing with the National Press Club focused on the health center workforce crisis, been a trusted source for Modern Healthcare and Axios reporters on a variety of topics, and partnered with POLITICO to promote our CHC Invest campaign through digital and print content.
- Welcoming ACH members and high-level policy stakeholders in Washington for our Annual Meeting in March 2022: We were thrilled to convene our members in-person earlier this year for our first Annual Meeting. The event included intimate, in-depth discussions with health policy leaders throughout the Administration, including Special Assistant to the President Catherine Oakar, Center of Medicaid & CHIP Director Dan Tsai, HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson, Associate Administrator of Primary Health Care Jim Macrae, and CMMI Chief Strategy Officer Purva Rawal. ACH members also held dozens of meetings with Congressional offices to share our policy priorities.
- Developing key relationships with Congressional leaders to draft legislative solutions to the most pressing policy priorities facing FQHCs today: We believe investing in health centers is a bipartisan solution to addressing the many health disparities we see in our country and we have spent significant time advocating on Capitol Hill to partner with Congressional champions on impactful legislation. We were proud to have our Pay for Equity language included in Rep. Robin Kelly’s (2-IL) Health Equity and Accountability Act introduced earlier this year. We have also been working with Congressional offices to introduce legislation focused on workforce, emergency preparedness, and health equity in the coming months.
- Working with Administration leadership on health equity: We have been in discussions with CMS’ Office of Minority Health (OMH) on adaptation of the Health Equity Summary Score for the FQHC setting. According to the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), the Health Equity Summary Score is the most promising measurement tool for health equity, but it has only been validated in the insurance plan setting. ACH and OMH continue to work together on a concrete plan for adaptation that helps FQHCs achieve health equity without adding undue burden on their staff.
- Building long-term opportunities for collaboration on payment reform for safety net providers: Between September 2021 and June of 2022, ACH met with CMMI to share detailed feedback and suggestions on the best ways to engage safety net entities in value-based care models. In addition, in early 2022, ACH CEO Amanda Pears Kelly spoke at CMMI’s public Roundtable “Safety Net Provider Participation in CMS Innovation Center Models.” CMS’ proposed reforms to the Medicare Shared Savings Program, released in June, reflect many of ACH’s recommendations. ACH has also been participating in the Duke Margolis Safety Net Payment Reform Working Group, which is compiling recommendations for CMS to improve models focused on safety net providers that are expected later this year.
While this year has been full of significant milestones, we know that there is much more work ahead. If our mission and our values align with yours, learn more about becoming an ACH member or corporate partner here.