More people than ever depend on Community Health Centers for affordable primary care, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). Health centers now serve more than 27 million patients, or 1 in 12 people, in rural and urban neighborhoods across America and the U.S. territories.
The extraordinary growth comes as health centers confront an uncertain funding future despite bipartisan support from lawmakers and the Presidential Administration, and overwhelming patient demand for affordable care. Yet, if Congress does not act before September 30th to extend mandatory funding, health centers will be hit with a funding cliff that will have a direct and immediate impact: 9 million patients will lose access to care, 2,800 health center sites face closure and over 50,000 jobs will be lost, according to federal estimates.
“Health centers have a proud tradition of support from both sides of the political aisle,” said Dan Hawkins, Senior Vice President for Research and Policy at NACHC. “Throughout decades and through bipartisan administrations Congress has consistently seen the value in growing the federal investment in the health center system of care. But even such broad support is no guarantee of secure and stable funding. The remarkable growth of health center patients over the course of the past few years, coupled with ever increasing demand for affordable care, make it clear that continued public investment in our program is critical now more than ever.”
With a shortened working calendar in Congress, time is running out to fix the funding cliff through legislation. Health center advocates from around the country are preparing to descend on Washington with the specific request for leaders to act immediately and extend funding for at least five years, providing at minimum, current funding levels to maintain services and stability of care.
Health centers not only prevent illness and foster wellness in the most challenging patients, many of whom are uninsured or underinsured, they also produce innovative solutions to the most pressing health care issues in their communities. They reach beyond the walls of conventional medicine to address the factors that may cause sickness, such as lack of nutrition, mental illness, homelessness and opioid addiction. Health centers have contributed significantly to cost savings for the American taxpayer by efficiently managing chronic conditions. Health centers save, on average, $2,371 (or 24%) in total spending per Medicaid patient when compared to other providers, according to a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Public Health.
To learn more about the mission and accomplishments of health centers please visit: www.nachc.org.