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Community Health Centers Fight for Survival in COVID-19 Pandemic

 

 

 

For Immediate Release:  April 7, 2020  

Contact: Amy Simmons Farber 202 309 0338

Washington, D.C.–Community Health Centers around the nation are feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) underscored the need for immediate relief so that health centers can continue to operate on the frontlines, launching testing sites and converting their facilities. Health centers are required by federal law to serve all who seek access to care, regardless of their ability to pay – and they will continue to do so. Yet, at the same time, health centers are experiencing severe declines in primary and preventative care visits due to a host of factors that include personal protective equipment shortages, government “stay-at-home” orders, and expectations that “non-essential” services be delayed. New NACHC estimates show that over the next 6 months health centers will have 34 million fewer visits, leading to $7.6 billion in lost revenue, and ultimately costing 100,500 jobs.

In an April 3rd letter, NACHC President and CEO Tom Van Coverden pressed U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar for an immediate down payment of $3.1 billion to health centers out of the $100 billion program established for health care providers to address shortages of equipment and retain personnel, without requiring them to submit applications in advance.

“In recognition of the critical role that FQHCs [Community Health Centers] are serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the drastic revenue losses they are experiencing as a result, we request that you immediately allocate at least $3.1 billion from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF) to enable FQHCs to keep their doors open,” wrote Van Coverden.

NACHC also made clear that if net revenue losses continue to drop beyond current levels, or if the pandemic lasts more than 3 months, health centers will need additional funding. The nation’s largest health centers are also affected by the financial impact of COVID-19. These health centers, representing 3.3 million patients across states from California to Massachusetts, employ more than 500 staff and may not qualify for additional government support, such as small business loans.

“We are in daily contact with health centers across the country that are relaying the stories of devastation that are a result of COVID-19,” said Van Coverden. “Health center providers are practicing medicine as if they are at war. In a matter of weeks they have converted their facilities, launched testing sites and expanded telehealth screening for patients confined to their homes. We do not know for certain how long this pandemic will last, but we do know for certain that primary care and health centers are critical to the national response.”

NACHC is coordinating with federal partners and Capitol Hill leaders to ensure health centers are supported on the front lines. They have also submitted to lawmakers a request of $7.6 billion in emergency funding over the next six months to assist health centers in the detection, prevention, and diagnosis of COVID-19. These funds would also provide resources needed to address health center revenue losses and enable them to remain open and alleviate pressure on hospitals as the number of COVID-19 cases surge nationwide.

 

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Established in 1971, the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) serves as the national voice for America’s Health Centers and as an advocate for health care access for the medically underserved and uninsured

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