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19 FL health centers win extra money

Nineteen of Florida's community health centers will receive a boost in federal dollars over three years to speed up Medicare patients' access to primary care, federal officials announced Monday.

They said they hope that quick appointments will keep patients from resorting to hospital emergency rooms, and thus save money while improving the quality of care.

Florida's participating clinics -- among 500 participating centers nationwide sharing $42 million over three years -- will use the money to extend their hours, hire extra workers or improve technology. The amount each clinic gets is determined by the number of Medicare patients it serves.

Bob Johns of the Family Centers of Southwest Florida, which will get about $72,000 in added funds each year, said they will create a web portal and kiosks in waiting rooms, where patients can see and print their medical records, make appointments and get health information.

"Trust me, we'll be able to use that money for good purposes,” Johns said.

The health centers in Florida receiving awards are:

• Collier Health Services, Inc., Immokalee

• Community Health Centers, Inc., in Orlando, Groveland and Apopka

• Family Health Centers of Southwest Florida, in Fort Meyers, St. James City and Port Charlotte

• Florida Community Health Centers in Clewiston, Fort Pierce and Okeechobee

• Jessie Trice Community Health Center, Miami

• Miami Beach Community Health Center, Miami Beach

• North Florida Medical Centers, Inc. in Cross City, Quincy, Greenville, Panacea and Wewahitchka

• Tampa Family Health Centers, Inc.

Centers participating in the Advanced Primary Care Practice demonstration project will get technical help from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation and the Health Resources Services Administration.

More information is available through this website.

---Health News Florida is an independent online publication dedicated to public-service journalism.

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.