THE EFFECT OF COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS ON HEALTH CARE ACCESS, CRIME, AND INTERACTIONS WITH THE MEDICAID PROGRAM
Marthey, Daniel J
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Health centers are community-based clinics that provide services to medically underserved populations. They serve nearly 30 million adults nationwide and more than 90% of patients come from households earning below 200% of the federal poverty level. To date, we know very little about the impact of health centers on measures of social wellbeing.This dissertation estimates the causal impact of the health centers using the staggered expansion of health centers between 2006 and 2020 and advancements in causal inference methods that allow for unbiased identification of treatment effects in the presence of variation in treatment timing and treatment effect heterogeneity. I use the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Provider of Services file to identify the introduction of health centers over time. Measures of primary care access come from the Dartmouth Atlas and the FBI’s UCR Offenses Known and Clearances by Arrest (2005-2016) files are used to measure agency and county level crime rates. Area-by-year covariates are compiled from several sources. The empirical approach uses staggered difference-in-differences where treatment is defined as the year the first health center receives certification in a county-year. Major findings suggest health centers increase annual visits with a primary care clinician by 4.5% within 7 years after certification among Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries. I find health centers reduce the total crime rate by 7% over the period. Results are robust to several alternative specifications. While results on Medicaid interactions are inconclusive, they suggest declines in crime are largest in counties that experienced a health center opening and Medicaid expansion. My dissertation adds to the literature on the impacts of the Health Center Program’s main objective—increasing access to care. In addition, my findings broaden the literature related to health access programs and crime. The Health Center Program has grown considerably in size and scope since inception, and it is a centerpiece of many policy approaches to reform the US health care system. Findings from my dissertation have important policy implications for health, criminal justice, and social justice reforms.