Community Health Worker Credentialing

Community health workers (CHWs) have shown, time and again, that they can improve health outcomes while reducing healthcare costs. Reductions in chronic illness, improved medication adherence, more patient involvement, and better community health have been accompanied by a return on investment of more than $2 for every dollar invested.

One approach states have explored to counteract these barriers is to develop some sort of CHW credentialing system. The goals of credentialing, as described by Carl Rush in 2012, are to achieve greater respect for CHWs among other healthcare professions, improved financial compensation and working conditions, increased job stability, and opportunities for more sustainable funding. The connection between insurance reimbursement and credentialing or standardized training is particularly significant, as both public and private insurance plans are likely to require some form of credentialing in order to pay for CHW services. At the same time, many CHWs are concerned that credentialing will create barriers to entry for the individuals best suited to the job (i.e., members of low-income communities who may not speak English as a first language), and/or take CHWs away from their community connections by focusing on credentialed ―skills‖ over community relationships.

This report by Harvard Law School's Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation is designed to review some of the major policies in different states and highlight some of the issues that arise in these programs. There is no single right approach. With sufficient stakeholder engagement, each state can develop policies tailored for its community.

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