Today House lawmakers voted for legislation that extends funding to Community Health Centers and the Children’s Health Insurance program (CHIP). The bill, which passed by a vote of 242-174, extends funding to health centers for two years, marking an important step forward toward resolution of the crisis facing millions of vulnerable patients due to the expiration of the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF) nearly a month ago. A summary of the legislation is at this link.
The House legislation also extends funding for important workforce programs like the National Health Service Corps and Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program for two additional years. A two-year extension will begin to restore certainty around future investment and will allow the nation’s more than 1,400 health center organizations to focus on doing what they do best: providing high-quality care to more than 27 million patients in thousands of communities nationwide. The fact that both the underlying bill and the substitute amendment offered by the minority call for a two-year extension underscores the bipartisan support and agreement on the importance of extending this critical source of funding.
NACHC and America’s Health Centers support the two-year extension included in the House proposal and remain committed to working with health center champions in both parties and in both chambers on an eventual long-term solution to the funding cliff. NACHC also recognizes the concerns and ongoing disagreement surrounding how the CHCF extension and other critical extensions are paid for under the proposal. As deliberation and debate over these priorities moves to the Senate, NACHC is committed to working with all parties, committees, leaders and health center champions across Capitol Hill to ensure the health center funding cliff fixed as part of a package that can pass both chambers and be signed into law as soon as possible.
Health centers have experienced a funding cliff since October 1. Even before the 70 percent cut to grant funding took effect, 26 percent of health centers have reported difficulties in hiring and retaining staff, according to a NACHC survey. 72 percent of health centers plan to institute a hiring freeze, 41 percent report they will be forced to lay off staff, 47 percent will reduce staff hours and/or hours of operation and 42 percent will begin tapping into and spending down reserves.