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Medically Underserved Area/Population (MUA/P) Designation
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The information found on this webpage is also found on the Health Resources and Services Administration website.


A Medically Underserved Area or Population (MUA/P) is typically the precursor for the Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) grant and the subsequent ability to establish a FQHC in a given area. However, if an organization currently serves a sufficiently underserved area or population and plans to move into an area with high need, then a designation may not be required. MUAs also provide rural clinics the eligibility needed for certification as a Rural Health Clinic (RHC) by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Federal Programs Using MUA/MUP Designations

  • Recipients of Health Center Program grant funds are legislatively required to serve areas or populations designated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services as medically underserved. Grants for the planning, development, or operation of Health Centers under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act are available only to centers which serve designated MUAs or MUPs.
  • Systems of care which meet the definition of a Health Center contained in Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act, but are not funded under that section, and are serving a designated MUA or MUP, are eligible for certification as an FQHC and thus for cost-based reimbursement of services to Medicaid-eligibles.
  • Clinics serving rural areas designated as MUAs are eligible for certification as Rural Health Clinics by CMS under the authority of the Rural Health Clinics Services Act (Public Law 95-210, as amended).
  • PHS Grant Programs administered by HRSA's Bureau of Health Professions gives funding preference to Title VII and VIII training programs in MUA/Ps.

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Medically Underserved Area Designation Criteria

  • This involves application of the Index of Medical Underservice (IMU) to data on a service area to obtain a score for the area. The IMU scale is from 0 to 100, where 0 represents completely underserved and 100 represents best served or least underserved. Under the established criteria, each service area found to have an IMU of 62.0 or less qualifies for designation as an MUA.
  • The IMU involves four variables: ratio of primary medical care physicians per 1,000 population, infant mortality rate, percentage of the population with incomes below the poverty level, and percentage of the population age 65 or over. The value of each of these variables for the service area is converted to a weighted value, according to established criteria. The four values are summed to obtain the area's IMU score.
  • The MUA designation process requires the following information:
    • Definition of the service area being requested for designation. These may be defined in terms of:
      • A whole county (in non-metropolitan areas)
      • Groups of contiguous counties, minor civil divisions (MCDs), or census county divisions (CCDs) in non-metropolitan areas, with population centers within 30 minutes travel time of each other
      • In metropolitan areas, a group of census tracts (CTs) which represent a neighborhood due to homogeneous socioeconomic and demographic characteristics
    • In addition, for non-single-county service areas, the rationale for the selection of a particular service area definition, in terms of market patterns or composition of population, should be presented. Designation requests should also include a map showing the boundaries of the service area involved and the location of resources within this area.
  • The latest available data on:
    • The resident civilian, non-institutional population of the service area (aggregated from individual county, MCD/CCD or C.T. population data)
    • The percent of the service area's population with incomes below the poverty level
    • The percent of the service area's population age 65 and over
    • The infant mortality rate (IMR) for the service area, or for the county or subcounty area which includes it. The latest 5-year average should be used to ensure statistical significance. Subcounty IMRs should be used only if they involve at least 4,000 births over a 5-year period. (If the service area includes portions of two or more counties, and only county-level infant mortality data is available, the different county rates should be weighted according to the fraction of the service area's population residing in each.)
    • The current number of full-time-equivalent (FTE) primary care physicians providing patient care in the service area, and their locations of practice. Patient care includes seeing patients in the office, on hospital rounds and in other settings, and activities such as laboratory tests and x-rays and consulting with other physicians. To develop a comprehensive list of primary care physicians in an area, an applicant should check state and local physician licensure lists, state and local medical society directories, local hospital admitting physician listings, Medicaid and Medicare provider lists, and the local yellow pages.
    • The computed ratio of FTE primary care physicians per thousand population for the service area (from items 2a and 2e above).
    • The IMU for the service area is then computed from the above data using the attached conversion Tables V1-V4, which translate the values of each of the four indicators (2b, 2c, 2d, and 3) into a score. The IMU is the sum of the four scores. (Tables V1-V4 are reprinted from earlier Federal Register publications.)

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MUP Designation Using Index of Medical Underservice

  • This involves application of the Index of Medical Underservice (IMU) to data on an underserved population group within an area of residence to obtain a score for the population group. Population groups requested for MUP designation should be those with economic barriers (low-income or Medicaid-eligible populations), or cultural and/or linguistic access barriers to primary medical care services.
  • This MUP process involves assembling the same data elements and carrying out the same computational steps as stated for MUAs above. The population is now the population of the requested group within the area rather than the total resident civilian population of the area. The number of FTE primary care physicians would include only those serving the requested population group. Again, the sample survey on page 8 may be used as a guide for this data collection. The ratio of the FTE primary care physicians serving the population group per 1,000 persons in the group is used in determining weighted value V4. The weighted value for poverty (V1) is to be based on the percent of population with incomes at or below 100 percent of the poverty level in the area of residence for the population group. The weighted values for percent of population age 65 and over (V2) and the infant mortality rate (V3) would be those for the requested segment of the population in the area of residence, if available and statistically significant; otherwise, these variables for the total resident civilian population in the area should be used. If the total of weighted values V1 - V4 is 62.0 or less, the population group qualifies for designation as an IMU-based MUP.

Tables V1-V4
Table V1: Percentage of Population Below Poverty Level
Table V2: Percentage of Population Age 65 and Over
Table V3: Infant Mortality Rate
Table V4: Ratio of Primary Care Physicians Per 1,000 Population Table



Current Designations in Michigan

Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Area

Statewide Map of HPSAs
List by County

Mental Health Professional Shortage Area

Statewide Map of HPSAs
List by County

Dental Health Professional Shortage Area

Statewide Map of HPSAs
List by County

Medically Underserved Area/Population

Map of MUA/MUP
List by County

Detroit Medically Underserved Area/Population

Map of Detroit's MUA/Ps

Governor’s Certified Shortage Area for RHC

Statewide Map of RHCs
List by County

More Information & Designation Inquiries

Joe Tran, MPH
Program Specialist, Health Center Operations



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