Broad Array of National Groups Calls for Swift Extension to Health Center Funding, Other Safety Net Priorities

Contact: Amy Simmons Farber 301-347-0400/202-309-0338 (C)

More than 75 national organizations—representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, health centers, children, patients, the faith community, financial institutions and health care industry partners—today sent a letter to Congress urging swift action to address looming program expirations and funding cuts facing the nation’s health care safety net. The letter is focused on five critical programs, each of which is set to expire on September 30th: Community Health Centers (CHCs), The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital payments, Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV), and the National Health Service Corps (NHSC).

“Without action by Congress to extend funding before September 30th, Community Health Centers face a dramatic funding cliff,” said Dan Hawkins, Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Research at the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). “Health centers are businesses – they need predictability in order to plan. In the end, patients are being put at risk by Congress’ decision to wait until the eleventh hour to act.”

Without action by Congress by the end of the month, funding for the Community Health Centers program, which now serve 27 million people or 1 in 12 Americans, would be reduced by approximately 70%. The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) itself has projected that the impact of would be dramatic: closure of 2,800 health center locations, elimination of more than 50,000 jobs, and a loss of access to care for more than 9 million patients.

Wide support exists on Capitol Hill and in the administration for a fix to the funding cliff. President Trump’s FY18 budget calls for an extension of funding at current levels. Letters earlier this year (House, Senate) signed by over 350 Members of Congress calling for an effort to “keep funding for Health Centers whole.” The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing where broad bipartisan support was expressed for health center funding. Yet with less than a month before the deadline, Congress has not yet released its plan to address the Community Health Center funding cliff.

The programs listed in the letter, along with additional expiring programs like the Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program and others, work hand in hand to form the backbone of health care access for vulnerable populations, children, rural communities and the underserved. While so much of the health care debate creates controversy, each of the programs outlined in the letter has strong bipartisan support – each was extended on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis in 2015.
“Health centers and the other programs facing expiration have a strong track record of success, and an earned history of bipartisan support,” said Hawkins. “In communities across the country, our health centers are planning for the worst, but hoping for the best. It’s time for Congress to stabilize these foundational elements of our system, and to do so on a long-term basis.”

Related:  The number of patients continue to grow at Community Health Centers.