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Advocates Press Congress for Community Health Center Funding

News  |  By Jack O'Brien  
   January 29, 2018

America’s Essential Hospitals and 74 other organizations co-signed a letter urging leaders to provide community health centers with a funding extension. 

A week after Congress agreed to a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that ended the three-day federal government shutdown, healthcare advocacy groups are urging leaders on Capitol Hill to pass long-term funding for programs left out of the stop-gap measure.

America’s Essential Hospitals, along with 74 cosigners, including American Nurses Association, March of Dimes, and National Physicians Alliance, authored a letter urging Congress to act before the February 8 funding deadline.

“This lapse in authorization and funding, coupled with the continuous enactment of short-term patches, has put in jeopardy health care services for seniors on Medicare and patients in underserved communities, resources for health care providers in rural communities, and programs aimed at training primary care physicians,” the letter read.

If Congress does not pass another CR or omnibus budget package by the end of February 8, the federal government will shut down for the second time this year.

Several federal programs are seeking funding extensions, including the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF), Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments, and the National Health Service Corps.

The CHCF, created in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act, is the largest source of comprehensive primary care for medically underserved communities, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

There are currently 1,367 health centers operating at more than 10,400 sites across the country, providing care to 26 million patients, according to Sara Rosenbaum, the Harold and Jane Hirsh Professor of Health Law and Policy at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services.

CHCF receives $5.1 billion in federal funding each year, constituting 70% of its operating revenue. The remaining 30% is supplied by annual congressional appropriations. If Congress does not approve additional funding, nearly 25% of service sites are projected to close, resulting in layoffs for 51,000 staffers, and reducing the patient care capacity by 9 million people, according to Rosenbaum.

The program was created with a five-year spending provision, which expired in 2015. The fund received a two-year extension along with the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which also enjoys widespread bipartisan support.

Permanent funding for both programs lapsed on September 30. Congress issued temporary funding measures through the fall and winter before passing a six-year extension for CHIP in the most recent CR, but did not approve long-term funding for CHCF.

Jack O'Brien is the Content Team Lead and Finance Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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