Secretary Hillary Clinton announced a plan today to significantly expand the reach of Community Health Centers (also called Federally Qualified Health Centers) to bring affordable health care to millions more Americans across the country.
“We are deeply appreciative and profoundly honored by Secretary Clinton’s recognition of the important role our health centers play in the health care system,” says Dan Hawkins, Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Research of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). “The resources called for in Secretary Clinton’s plan will be sufficient to allow health centers – which serve 25 million people today – to reach 50 million or more Americans by 2027.”
The Clinton plan was developed with significant input from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), whose efforts during consideration of the Affordable Care Act resulted in the creation of the Health Centers Fund, a dedicated stream of funding aimed at bolstering the nation’s system of primary care. “For his entire career in public life, Senator Bernie Sanders has fought to bring access to meaningful primary care to those patients and communities who need it most,” Hawkins said. “We are grateful for his vision and his commitment to health equity, and for his steadfast belief in health centers’ ability to deliver results.”
For all of their 50-plus year history, health centers have operated as community-owned, non-profit entities providing primary medical, dental, and behavioral health care as well as pharmacy and a variety of enabling and support services – including translation, transportation, and case management – to people and communities in need. Today, more than 1,300 health center organizations serve over 9,000 urban and rural communities nationwide. The health center model has long been recognized as a cost-efficient, high-quality, and locally-driven “one stop shop” for the community’s health care. As frontline health care providers, health centers are regularly called upon to address new or growing challenges at the community level – most recently the opioid epidemic and the Zika virus.
By statute and mission, health centers are located in high-need communities (or serve high-need populations) and are governed by patient-majority boards to ensure they are responsive to the specific needs of each individual community they serve. Health centers offer comprehensive care to all local residents, regardless of ability to pay or insurance status, and offer services on a sliding fee scale based on income.
“We are proud of the health center track record, not only in delivering care, but also in delivering value,” says Hawkins. “It is well documented that health centers produce savings exceeding $24 billion annually by reducing preventable hospitalizations and emergency department use, as well as the need for more expensive specialty care. Well rooted as locally run small businesses, health centers not only keep patients healthy, but also improve the economic health of their communities as major employers of local residents, including thousands of veterans, and by stimulating business development.”
Hawkins also points out that health centers serve as a critical training ground for today’s and tomorrow’s primary care workforce.
“Secretary Clinton’s longstanding support for Community Health Centers – as First Lady, in the Senate, and as a Presidential candidate in 2008 and today – is greatly appreciated by our health centers and the millions of people who rely on them as their medical home,” says Hawkins. “Health centers have garnered bipartisan support for most of their history, including major initiatives under Presidents Bush and Obama. We stand ready to work with the next Administration and bipartisan champions and leaders in Congress to expand health care access to more people, and to serve at the center of a health care system designed around access, quality and comprehensive care for all.”
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