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At the 2022 Primary Care Conference in Wilmington, the North Carolina Community Health Center Association (NCCHCA) held an awards luncheon to honor a bipartisan group of lawmakers who have consistently advocated for the needs of Community Health Centers and our patients.  

The Association presented N.C. State Senator Jim Perry (R-Lenoir, Wayne) with our Community Health Advocate of the Year Award, which is presented to lawmakers who have made significant contributions toward the development and support of Community Health Centers and the communities they serve within the past year.  Thanks to Senator Perry’s leadership, North Carolina has enacted protections for affordable medications and other critical Community Health Centers services made possible through the 340B drug discount program.  

NCCHCA also recognized three retiring members of Congress with the Association’s Community Health Champion Legacy Award, which honors their longstanding service, dedication, and advocacy on behalf of Community Health Centers and the patients and communities we serve across North Carolina.  

This year’s Community Health Champion Legacy Awardees were: 

While they were not able to attend the luncheon in person, the honorees accepted their awards with pre-recorded remarks that were played for attendees.

While we took time to reflect on our shared accomplishments and express gratitude to those policy makers who share our mission, we also looked ahead to our future policy goals, which include expanding Medicaid, protecting the 340B Drug Discount Program, and enhancing Community Health Center funding to support the expansion of needed programs such as increased behavioral health services. 

The Association Notes the Transformative Impact HB 149 Will Have on Patient Care and CHC Operations

The North Carolina Community Health Center Association applauds the N.C. Senate’s passage of HB 149, which would expand Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured North Carolinians and strengthen the state’s Community Health Centers (CHCs), which provide comprehensive primary care services in rural and medically underserved communities without regard to patients’ ability to pay.

Medicaid expansion is the single most transformative state policy the N.C. General Assembly can enact to increase health care access and strengthen the primary care safety net. “Not only will Medicaid expansion help Community Health Centers enhance and expand the services we provide to medically underserved communities, but it will also enable hundreds of thousands of our state’s residents to live healthier lives with more secure access to the care they need,” said Reuben C. Blackwell, IV, President and CEO of OIC of Rocky Mount and Chair of the NCCHCA Board of Directors. “For the sake of our patients and our health care providers, it’s crucial that the North Carolina General Assembly take this important step of expanding Medicaid.”

Statewide, 40 percent of CHC patients are uninsured, while uninsured rates for individual health centers are as high as 70 to 80 percent. When CHCs lack reimbursement for the essential services they provide, it strains their operating budgets and prevents them from expanding their capacity to reach more patients. Expanding Medicaid would also save patients the burden of living with worsening health conditions because they fear the cost of seeking treatment.

In addition to improving health care access and outcomes for patients, Medicaid expansion would generate increased revenue for CHCs, enabling them to hire more clinical staff, extend the availability of services into new areas of the state, and expand needed programs, such as addiction treatment, mobile medical units, and dental services.

We applaud the N.C. Senate for this historic action and call on N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore and the rest of the N.C. House delegation to pass Medicaid expansion to deliver the health care solutions that are vitally important to the health and economic well-being of our state.

September 20, 2021.
Raleigh, NC: The Medication Cost Transparency Act (Senate Bill 257) was signed into law today by Governor Roy Cooper after unanimously passing both chambers of the NC General Assembly earlier this month. This critical legislation protects North Carolinians’ access to care in rural and underserved communities of the state by outlawing discrimination by Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) against Community Health Centers’ (CHCs’) pharmacy programs over their participation in the 340B Drug Discount program. Thanks to these efforts, North Carolina’s CHCs can continue doing what they do best—provide comprehensive primary care services, including medical, behavioral health, dental, and pharmacy care, to North Carolinians in rural and underserved communities without regard for their insurance status or ability to pay.

The 340B Drug Discount program enables CHCs to stretch scarce federal resources as far as possible, reaching more patients and providing more comprehensive health care services. By discounting the cost of medications for health centers, the 340B program enables health centers to provide affordable medications for their patients and reinvest savings into other key services, like behavioral health, dental, and school-based health programs.

In recent years, PBMs found ways to “pickpocket” CHCs’ 340B savings through discriminatory contracts, boosting PBMs’ bottom lines by forcing CHCs to give up the savings that were meant to benefit their vulnerable patients. If not for Senate Bill 257, 94% of participating Community Health Centers may have to cut patient services supported by 340B savings

On behalf of the state’s 42 Community Health Center organizations that cared for over 685,000 patients in 2020, the North Carolina Community Health Center Association (NCCHCA) thanks Governor Cooper for signing this bill into law, and we extend our gratitude to our leaders in the NC General Assembly, especially Senator Jim Perry and Representative Wayne Sasser, for protecting the primary care safety net as part of this legislative effort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raleigh, NC –  – The North Carolina Community Health Center Association (NCCHCA) recognizes and applauds the critical role of its member community health centers (CHCs) in the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and, as such, supports their efforts to protect CHC staff and the communities they serve through vaccination against the disease caused by the COVID-19 virus.

Vaccination against COVID-19 has been proven to dramatically reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalization or death from the virus. Since January of this year, North Carolina’s CHCs have been key partners in delivering vaccines both to their patients, many of who represent vulnerable, underserved populations, and to their communities as a whole.  NC CHCs have delivered over a quarter of a million vaccines to date. Clinical data has shown the COVID-19 vaccines to be extraordinarily safe and effective, and the best tool to end the pandemic. With the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday, August 23, consumers can be even more confident about the efficacy and safety of the vaccine.

NCCHCA supports member CHC policies that encourage all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and regularly test those not yet vaccinated, but also acknowledges that each CHC is unique and each organization maintains the autonomy to evaluate and determine the appropriate strategy for ensuring the safety and health of their staff and patients. Additionally, NCCHCA also supports CHCs’ efforts to provide easily accessible, free vaccines to all in their community who desire them, and to be a trusted partner in educating community members on the importance of COVID-19 vaccination.

“Our job at NCCHCA is to act as a support system for our member community health centers and provide them with tools and resources so they can carry out their missions,” stated Chris Shank, CEO and President of NCCHCA. Shank continued, “Through continuous discussions, we are working with our members to aid them in developing vaccine strategies tailored to their individual staff and patient circumstance. Some of our members, along with the NCCHCA, have mandated staff COVID-19 vaccinations and testing requirements for unvaccinated staff while other members are continuing to evaluate their future plans. I am incredibly proud of the way our members have responded to the pandemic and continue to take actions that are in the best interest of their communities.”

Reuben Blackwell, chair of the NCCHCA board and chief executive officer of OIC of Rocky Mount, a NCCHCA CHC member added, “I am deeply worried about the effects of the virus that results from COVID-19 on North Carolina’s most vulnerable folks who also happen to be Community Health Center patients and staff. I hope that, like I did, staff will protect themselves as well as their communities by getting this safe, effective, and free vaccine to protect against this virus.”

For Immediate Release. Contact: Leslie Wolcott, Communications & Emergency Preparedness. Wolcottl@ncchca.org

NCCHCA’s member Community Health Centers (CHCs) are grateful for the announcement this week from the Biden Administration of an important investment in Community Health Centers. This investment, in CHCs across the United States, is intended to increase access to and confidence in the COVID19 vaccine. You can see the North Carolina awards here. NCCHCA expects the funds to be available within the next month. Additional funding announcements for NC’s 3 CHC look-alikes have not yet been made, but are expected.

NC CHCs are extremely thankful that the federal funding opportunity will support a variety of current and anticipated future health center needs related to COVID-19 and, in some cases, cover unreimbursed costs health centers incurred since the pandemic first hit the U.S. dating back to January 31, 2020. Support is also available for basic primary and preventive services not only to maintain current health center services, but also to address “recovery and stabilization” activities in anticipation of serving pent-up demand for different services that people have been postponing due to the pandemic.

During the pandemic, which has now stretched over a year, North Carolina’s Community Health Centers have continued to deliver excellent and affordable primary and other health care services to every patient who needs them, regardless of ability to pay. Beyond that, they have worked to re-engineer both physical spaces and patient flows to protect the health of staff, patients, and the surrounding community. They’ve conducted hundreds of thousands of COVID19 tests, delivered care via telehealth to those who were not comfortable attending in person, and now they are on the front lines of vaccinating America’s most vulnerable populations.

While this funding is generous and much needed, it is specific to COVID19 response and vaccine administration. Community Health Centers in North Carolina continue to fulfill their mission of comprehensive care to hundreds of thousands of patients, with 42% being uninsured. North Carolina is yet to join 38 other states in the expansion of Medicaid, and NC CHCs stand in the breech to provide care and promote our communities’ overall wellness. One of the ways that CHCs benefit patients—by providing discounted medications thanks to a program called 340B—is under threat by those who would pickpocket the savings that health centers now invest in providing more services to patients. Without access to affordable medications, it is challenging for patients to control chronic conditions or recover from illnesses.

North Carolina’s Community Health Centers will, as they always have, squeeze every last penny out of this federal funding to vaccinate the underserved and historically marginalized populations where they have long existed as trusted community partners. They will deliver vaccines safely, efficiently, and with the kindness that they have displayed across the state for many years.

But North Carolina’s Community Health Centers ask the public and elected officials to remember: Our charge is much larger than Covid response. It includes vulnerable and underserved populations with diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and many other chronic and acute needs. These will continue to exist in North Carolina long after COVID is under control. Federal support for COVID relief is just one piece in the puzzle of long-term sustainable funding for CHCs. NC CHCs will continue to care for all their patients, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay, and strive to be ready for the next health emergency, the next pandemic, or the next hurricane as an essential part of NC’s health care safety net.

For more information, contact:
Elaine A. Ellis
VP, Communication and Marketing
North Carolina Medical Society
(919) 272-4027 (cell)
eellis@ncmedsoc.org

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

RALEIGH — As a broad group of organizations representing your community’s physicians, physician assistants, health clinics, hospitals and local health departments, we strongly encourage everyone currently eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine to do so as soon as possible. Getting vaccinated with one of the three authorized vaccines is crucial to stemming the severity of the illness caused by the COVID-19 virus and the spread of its more transmissible variants. In addition to the 3 ‘W’s – wearing a mask, waiting six feet apart and washing your hands – getting a vaccine will help end this pandemic.

Everyone Will Have a Chance to be Vaccinated

As vaccine supply slowly increases, a growing variety of providers are administering vaccines including at vaccination clinics set up by health departments, health systems and the state, pharmacies, and, increasingly, your doctor’s office. Please take just a minute to check the state’s website as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccine finder to find a place near you offering the vaccine. These websites will help you determine your eligibility and to set up an appointment.

“We urge you to get a vaccine as soon as you’re eligible, keeping in mind our refrain that ‘those who would fare worst if they acquire the COVID-19 virus, should be vaccinated first,’” said North Carolina Medical Society President Philip Brown, Jr., MD. “Now with three effective vaccines, it won’t be long until it will be your turn to get your shot.”

To protect those most at risk of acquiring the virus and of serious illness, the state has established vaccine eligibility priorities. As supply limitations ease in the coming weeks, everyone will have the opportunity to receive a vaccine as we fight this virus together.

“We have three vaccines that are all safe, effective, and allow you to do the things you love and see the ones you love without getting sick,” said Mike Zelek, MPH, Chatham County Public Health Director and President of the North Carolina Public Health Association. “If you haven’t yet gotten your vaccine or signed up to get it when it is your turn, now is the time.”

All the Current Vaccines Are Effective

All three vaccines currently available have been shown to be effective in mitigating the severity of the illness caused by COVID-19, which not only means protecting yourself and your loved ones, but also ensuring our health system is not overwhelmed. While there are some differences between the vaccines – for instance, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires just one  – if a vaccine is available to you, please take it regardless of brand. Being vaccinated is the most important thing, not which vaccine you receive since they all offer protection.

“We all want to get back to close to normal as soon as possible.  This is our shot to do just that,” said Jessica L. Triche, MD, FAAFP, President of the NC Academy of Family Physicians.  “Please sign up as soon as you are eligible and take your shot regardless of the brand you receive.”

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes clear, millions of people in the United States have received the authorized COVID-19 vaccines, and these vaccines have undergone the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. This monitoring includes using both established and new safety monitoring systems to make sure that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.

“If you are wondering about which vaccine is the best for you, I’ll keep it simple, with all three vaccines being safe and effective, the best vaccine for you is the one available to you at your appointment,” said Stacie Saunders, MPH, Buncombe County Public Health Director and President of the North Carolina Association of Local Health Directors.

Remember, these vaccines cannot give you COVID-19.

“NCCHCA and its members are glad to act as trusted community partners in the delivery of all available vaccines,” said Chris Shank, NCCHCA President and CEO. “Getting COVID-19 vaccinations into the arms of all North Carolinians, no matter their income or insurance status, is critical to the mission of North Carolina’s Community Health Centers.”

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine, along with following the 3 ‘W’s public health protocols we all know so well, will bring us one step closer to regaining more certainty for the future and more control over our lives once again.

 

About the North Carolina Medical Society: The North Carolina Medical Society is the oldest professional member organization in North Carolina, representing physicians and physician assistants who practice in the state. Founded in 1849, the Society seeks to provide leadership in medicine by uniting, serving and representing physicians and their health care teams to enhance the health of North Carolinians. 

About the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians: The North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians, Inc. (NCAFP) is a non-profit professional association headquartered in Raleigh representing over 4,200 family physicians, family medicine residents and medical students across North Carolina.  The NCAFP is a constituent chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians, based in Leawood, Kansas. 

About the North Carolina Healthcare Association: Founded in 1918, North Carolina Healthcare Association (NCHA) is the united voice of the North Carolina healthcare community. Representing more than 130 hospitals, health systems, physician groups and other healthcare organizations, NCHA works with our members to improve the health of North Carolina communities by advocating for sound public policies and collaborative partnerships and by providing insights, services, support and education to expand access to high quality, efficient, affordable and integrated health care for all North Carolinians.

About the North Carolina Community Health Center Association: The North Carolina Community Health Center Association was formed in 1978 by the leadership of community health centers. NCCHCA is comprised of membership from 42 Community Health Center organizations. NCCHCA is singularly focused on the success of health centers.

About the North Carolina Association of Local Health Directors: The mission of NCALHD is to promote health, prevent disease, and protect the environment in order to ensure the public’s health in North Carolina through leadership, vision, advocacy, and commitment to the principles of public health practice in our local communities and throughout the state.

About the North Carolina Public Health Association: NCPHA is an association of individuals and organizations working to improve the public’s health through political advocacy, public awareness, professional development, and the interface between research and practice.

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Contact Leslie Wolcott, NCCHCA

White House Announcement

To Promote Equity, White House Announces Phased Plan to Allocate Vaccines Directly to FQHCs
Declaring that equity is part of a core national strategy to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the White House Coronavirus Task Force announced a program to directly allocate a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine to select Community Health Centers (CHCs) starting next week. While the program is starting small, with only 25 CHCs in the first week, the initiative will increase access to vaccines to over 250 health centers nationwide within the coming weeks. After that, as supply increases, HRSA and CDC will support vaccination in additional health centers with a goal of eventually distributing 1 million doses each week through this program.

While no NC CHCs are yet included in the earliest part of the rollout, NCCHCA is encouraged by the White House’s message that they value equity in vaccine delivery and CHCs’ critical role in executing that vision. However, we know this will come in stages, and we are excited to continue working with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as they execute their plan to allocate vaccines to providers across NC with a focus on equity as well.

“Community Health Centers are grateful for the White House initiative but know that the urgency of COVID-19 means we must continue working diligently with all partners, especially NCDHHS, to get as many vaccines in arms as quickly as possible, especially to NC’s underserved populations,” said LaShun Huntley, NCCHCA Board Chair and CEO of United Health Centers in Winston Salem, NC.

To learn more about the national health center COVID vaccine program, please visit this link. 

House Relief Bill and Other Announcements

Congress also working to improve support for health centers. The National Association of Community Health Centers writes that “A stimulus package being prepared by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce recommends $7.6 billion for health centers for a number of uses including to plan, prepare for, promote, distribute, administer, and track COVID-19 vaccines and boost efforts to conduct mobile testing or vaccinations in hard-to-reach communities. The proposed funding could also be used to support workforce needs, conduct COVID-19 testing, the purchase of equipment and supplies, and an expansion of health care services and infrastructure. It also grants much-needed flexibility for health centers to cover the costs related to addressing the pandemic starting from the date of the Public Health Emergency declaration on January 31, 2020.”

Other announcements around the massive effort to vaccinate Americans against COVID19 include direct shipments to chain pharmacies and increased shipments to states. NCCHCA is excited about all the ways the nation is tackling this huge challenge, and member Community Health Centers will continue to do what they do best: act as trusted partners to underserved communities, providing primary and other health care services while also being on the front lines of testing and vaccination efforts. This work, though, takes remarkable levels of staffing under great pressure. It also requires resources like additional community locations, PPE, and partnerships with local EMS and law enforcement to manage traffic at these events. Any additional resources allocated to Community Health Centers will be immediately put to best use to address these challenges during the pandemic.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

This week the NC Community Health Center Association (NCCHCA) submitted a report to a state legislative committee detailing how its member community health center (CHC) organizations have gone above and beyond to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With an investment of $12.425m by the NC General Assembly of federal CARES Act funds, CHCs were able to absorb new costs to meet their communities’ COVID-related needs head on. These funds helped CHCs fully adopt telehealth and renovate in-person facilities to promote social distancing and infection control. And most importantly, these funds helped maintain health care capacity and staffing throughout the harshest periods of the pandemic thus far, ensuring that patients could continue accessing primary health care services regardless of insurance status or ability to pay.

Since the pandemic began, NC community health centers have conducted well over 150,000 COVID-19 tests. Funds allocated by the state legislature have helped make that possible, as CHCs were able to absorb the costs of supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE), temporarily increase staff capacity, and acquire mobile medical units to provide services in community-based locations throughout the state.

Check out this infographic for more highlights of innovative ways that CHCs, also known as federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), have risen to the challenge thanks to funds allocated by the state legislature.

Looking ahead, NCCHCA and members look forward to continuing to partner with state lawmakers to care for our communities throughout the pandemic and see to it that every North Carolinian who wants a COVID-19 vaccine can receive it. NCCHCA welcomes additional investments into Community Health Centers to allow us to continue and enhance the work that the NC General Assembly has wisely supported thus far.

 

About the North Carolina Community Health Center Association

Representing the state’s community health centers since 1978, NCCHCA today comprises 42 community health center member organizations, including 39 federally qualified health center (FQHC) grantees and 3 FQHC look-alike organizations, all of which are commonly referred to as community health centers (CHCs). All FQHC and FQHC look-alikes in North Carolina are members of NCCHCA. With funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), NCCHCA is North Carolina’s state Primary Care Association (PCA) and Health Center Controlled Network (HCCN), representing FQHCs to state and federal officials and providing training and technical assistance on clinical, operational, financial, administrative, and governance issues.

North Carolina’s community health centers provide whole-person primary medical care, as well as integrated services—such as dental, behavioral health, pharmacy, substance use disorder, and enabling services—to North Carolinians without regard to their ability to pay. By mission and statute, community health centers provide care in medically underserved communities and to medically underserved populations.

 

Date: December 15, 2020

Contact: Leslie Wolcott
wolcottl@ncchca.org

Raleigh: In a joint letter sent yesterday to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and a bipartisan coalition of 27 other state Attorneys General urged the agency to protect patients from drug manufacturers’ unlawful refusal to provide required discounts on life-saving medications to community health centers and other safety net providers.

“While our health care heroes are on the frontlines of this pandemic, drug companies are taking aim at a program that makes medications affordable for patients and provides much-needed financial savings to community health centers,” said Chris Shank, CEO and President of the North Carolina Community Health Center Association.

The 340B Drug Discount Program requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide discounted outpatient medications to community health centers, allowing them to stretch scarce federal resources to care for more North Carolinians and offer affordable medications to vulnerable patients at no cost to taxpayers. North Carolina’s community health centers leverage the pharmacies they own and operate as well as partnerships with other community-based pharmacies, called contract pharmacies, to make medications accessible to patients. “North Carolina’s 42 community health center organizations could not have served 631,000 patients—43% of whom were uninsured—in 2019 if it were not for the 340B program,” Shank added.

However, in the past few months, a growing list of drug manufacturers have unilaterally cut off the legally required 340B discounts to these contract pharmacies, jeopardizing patients’ access & causing financial losses for these nonprofit safety net providers—in the middle of a public health crisis. “By law and by mission, community health centers reinvest every penny of 340B savings into activities that expand health care access for their medically underserved patients,” said Shank. “If these restrictions continue, patients in underserved communities will suffer further as health centers would be forced to reduce their discount pharmacy programs, reduce health center staff and hours, and even scale back other services they offer to patients.”

In a press release from his office, Attorney General Stein said, “It’s wrong for drug companies to break the rules and make it harder for North Carolinians to afford the medications they need to stay healthy, especially while we face the added health and economic burdens of this pandemic.” “I urge HHS to take action immediately so people can continue to get the health care they need,” said Stein.

On behalf of the state’s community health centers and the communities they serve, the North Carolina Community Health Center Association thanks Attorney General Stein for his leadership.

For Immediate Release:
Raleigh, NC

Contact: April Morgan, Morgana@ncchca.org

Marketplace Open Enrollment started November 1, 2020 and runs through December 15. Among the many ways that North Carolina’s 42 Community Health Centers serve their communities, assistance with health insurance enrollment is one of heightened importance during the current global pandemic. Consumers can visit getcoveredamerica.org or call 855-733-3711 to schedule an appointment with an enrollment assister (in-person, virtually, or by phone) to review their health coverage options and for assistance enrolling in a plan.

All plans offered through the Marketplace provide consumer protections, including coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, as well as essential health benefits, such as free preventive health services. Consumers should also know that nine in ten consumers in North Carolina receive help paying their monthly premium, and nearly six in ten receive help with lower deductibles, co-pays, etc.

Six insurers will be offering coverage through the Marketplace in North Carolina in 2021, up from four in 2020—giving consumers more choices next year. To see the plans available in your area, visit www.healthcare.gov/see-plans.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) remains the law of the land! NCCHCA encourages consumers to review their health insurance options for 2021 and enroll in coverage before Marketplace Open Enrollment ends on December 15, 2020.

 

Health Insurance for Children

Speak with someone about health insurance for you and your child.  Hablar con alguien sobre las opciones de seguro médico para usted o su hijo,

 

 

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