In the early 1990s, Washington, like many other states, began realizing the benefits of covering its Medicaid populations under managed care rather than fee-for-service. Washington’s community health centers believed that they were ideally positioned to offer managed care services to the Medicaid and Basic Health populations. The community health center model – designed to remove the financial, cultural, linguistic, geographic and other barriers to health care – was a natural fit with managed care.

In addition, the health centers believed that by leveraging their resources and expertise they could provide better care to their patients and, in turn, benefit their communities. Collectively, they could also undertake a vigorous and strategic public policy and advocacy effort in both Olympia and Washington D.C. to ensure access to health care for every Washington resident.

In the fall of 1992, Washington’s community health centers voted to create the Community Health Network of Washington and a subsidiary non-profit managed care company – Community Health Plan of Washington. Plan membership grew from 14,000 members in 1993 to just under 300,000 currently. As a network, they brought together shared values for equal access to health care, years of experience in community organizing, and track records for effective health care administration.