Contact: Amy Simmons Farber
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Senators are urging for immediate action on the Community Health Center funding cliff, citing federal estimates that more than 9 million people are in danger of losing access to care if Congress doesn’t act. A letter, spearheaded by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and co-signed by more than 70 senators including Republicans and Democrats, warns leaders of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), that “If Congress allows the Community Health Centers Fund (CHCF) to lapse, it would immediately threaten patient access to the cost-effective primary care health centers provide.”
Without Congressional action to extend the funding by September 30th, Community Health Centers face a 70% reduction in federal funds, which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has estimated would lead to closure of 2,800 health center sites, elimination of more than 50,000 provider and staff positions, and a loss of access to care for some 9 million patients. The Senators also noted that health centers are the “medical home for one in twelve Americans, one in ten children, one in six Americans living in rural areas, and more than 330,000 of our nation’s veterans.”
Health centers are already experiencing the ripple effect from the uncertainty around a fix for the funding cut with hiring freezes, planned cuts to programs and expansion projects ground to a halt. The Blunt-Stabenow letter warns, “We are already hearing of the disruptive effects of the uncertainty created by the impending funding cliff on health center operations – this disruption will increase significantly without an extension of funding by September 30th.”
“Missouri health centers are deeply appreciative of the bipartisan leadership that Sen. Blunt has shown to bring about a swift resolution to the health center funding cliff,” said Joe Pierle, CEO of the Missouri Primary Care Association. “Senator Blunt understands the value of health centers in our state and the impact such a devastating funding cut will have on Missourians who need affordable primary care.”
“We’re grateful we have a champion like Sen. Stabenow who is willing to lead when it comes to supporting bipartisan health care solutions that work,” said Loretta V. Bush, Michigan Primary Care Association CEO. “Sen. Stabenow knows that more than 680,000 Michiganders rely on health centers for care. Our patients quite literally cannot afford a funding cut of this magnitude.”
The Senate letter comes on the heels of bipartisan legislation, “The Community Health Investment, Modernization and Excellence (CHIME) Act of 2017,” introduced by Representatives Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), David Young (R-IA) and Joe Courtney (D-CT). The legislation would extend the Community Health Centers Fund for an additional five years.