For Immediate Release: June 16, 2020
Washington, D.C. – Despite being on the front lines of the pandemic in 14,000 underserved communities across the country, Community Health Centers are ineligible for the billions in Provider Relief Fund payments targeted to safety net providers. Health centers care for nearly 30 million medically-underserved patients nationwide, a large portion of whom are low-income, and are at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 with more serious health complications. Despite this essential role, the only payment that most health centers have received from the Provider Relief Fund equaled roughly two percent of patient revenues – the same amount as other providers who do not focus on vulnerable populations and provide no COVID-related care.
Beyond this basic payment, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has targeted an additional $45 billion to safety net hospitals, hospitals located in hot spots, skilled nursing providers, rural providers, and dentists. HHS explained that these payments reflect the fact that these providers serve vulnerable populations and experience slim profit margins, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Although health centers more than meet these criteria, these targeted distributions remain largely out of reach.
“Health centers have paid a heavy price in this pandemic,” said Tom Van Coverden, the President and CEO of NACHC. “Our doctors, nurses and frontline staff are working tirelessly to reduce the spread of the virus in our nation’s most vulnerable communities, and to reduce the burden on hospitals. For the past four months, they have fought this battle with a shortage of protective gear and medical supplies. We are not asking for a blank check, but rather to be treated and recognized in the same way as other safety net providers.”
“Health centers have a clear and defined mission as the first line of defense in this pandemic,” said Van Coverden. “By reducing the number and severity of COVID-19 cases among vulnerable people, health centers reduce the demands – both clinical and financial – on hospitals and emergency rooms. This work is critical now more than ever as the numbers of infected continue to rise among people who work in service jobs that put them at higher risk and provide little paid sick leave and may live in housing with limited options for social distancing.”
The COVID-19 pandemic also struck as health centers were operating on short-term funding extensions. Every health center in the nation now faces the potential loss of 70 percent of their federal funding unless Congress acts before November 2020.
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.