Today, President Obama released his Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2017. The budget calls for a total of $5.1 billion in funding for Community Health Centers next year, including $1.35 billion in discretionary funds and $3.75 billion in mandatory funds. The budget also calls for extensions of Community Health Centers’ mandatory funding for 2 additional years beyond the funding currently in place through FY17. NACHC Senior Vice President for Public Policy Dan Hawkins issued the following statement:
The President’s Budget released today sends many of the right signals when it comes to initiatives to promote healthcare access, recognizing that health centers are an asset to communities and individuals across the country. Yet in a proposal so large, “the devil is in the details,” and when examined for its short-term and long-term impact, the budget comes up short in several areas.
While we are pleased and grateful that the Administration calls for two additional years of mandatory funding for health centers—beyond the two years put in place by bipartisan majorities in Congress last year—we are disappointed that the budget did not call for a longer-term, or indeed a permanent, solution to the future expiration of mandatory funds. The investments made by Congress in health centers during the last 15 years, under supportive Presidents of both parties, have brought access to high quality healthcare to millions of Americans in thousands of new communities. Short-term extensions of such a major funding source put that care in jeopardy, and represent an “emergency room approach” to primary care investment. We look forward to working with Congress to sustain the gains that have been made through strategic investment in communities nationwide.
Additionally, the President’s budget calls for an increase in health centers’ mandatory funding of $150 million in FY 2017, while making a corresponding reduction in discretionary funding for the program. This is a misguided approach, which exposes health centers to additional potential shortfalls down the road. Congress should keep health centers’ discretionary funding whole at no less than the FY16 level.
The budget suggests encouraging steps to invest in the nation’s primary care workforce – a crucial component of every Community Health Center’s operations and future potential. The extension of key funding streams for both the National Health Service Corps and the Teaching Health Centers program are smart investments. As with the Health Centers program, however, these programs should be put on more stable long-term footing so the providers – and more importantly, the patients – who rely on them don’t face the crisis of another funding “cliff” down the road.
As this year’s budget process unfolds, we look forward to working with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to secure and strengthen access to primary and preventive healthcare through our nation’s health centers.