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Cuts to Community Health Centers Hit Rural Americans Hardest

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, March 21, 2012

The federal government's decision to withhold about $600 million in funding for primary care community health centers will have a disproportionately hard effect on rural Americans.

More than 90% of the 20 million people who are served by health centers have incomes that are below twice the federal poverty level. And about 48% the of the nation's 8,100 federally funded community health centers serve rural communities. People in rural areas tend to be older, poorer, and sicker than their urban counterparts. They also tend to have fewer healthcare options and more difficulty accessing healthcare than people in urban areas.

About one-in-seven rural Americans gets their care from a community health center.

With that in mind, it's troubling to see the ambitious plan to double services and access from 20 million people to 40 million through community health centers waylaid by the budget battle, even though the need is growing.

Last year, for example, communities across the nation submitted 1,900 health center grant applications for new sites or services to the Health Resources and Services Administration, which oversees the program, but only 67 applications were approved because of funding shortages.

This seems remarkably short-sighted when almost everyone, regardless of their political leanings, understands that access to primary care, preventive medicine, and disease management are cost-effective alternatives to acute episodes that require hospitalization.  

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2 comments on "Cuts to Community Health Centers Hit Rural Americans Hardest"


Mark (3/22/2012 at 6:57 PM)
Health centers are "an integral part of the health care system because they provide care for the low-income, for the newly arrived, and they take the pressure off of our hospital emergency rooms." ~ George W Bush

Kevin Stuckey (3/21/2012 at 1:55 PM)
Based upon the assumption that government exists to serve society, this is a classic example of one of two failures in government "leadership": 1st - creating a dependent sector of society by eroding the free-market incentives that make it financially viable make healthcare services available and 2) eliminating the necessary financial resources that partially address the initial failure (#1 above). The ultimate result is an increasing population that becomes MORE dependent upon the government as resource provider. If we are blind to that fact, ultimately we are destined to be wards of the State. Welcome to ObamaCare!