This Friday, the CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS ACT of 2017 will likely be voted on in the US House of Representatives. NCCHCA is glad that Congress is moving forward toward resolution of the crisis facing millions of vulnerable patients due to the expiration of the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF) nearly a month ago. The House legislation extends critical funding for the CHCF, as well as for important workforce programs like the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program, for two additional years. As the medical home for children in rural and underserved communities throughout North Carolina, NCCHCA also supports the extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) included in the bill. However, the offsets used to pay for this legislation make severe cuts to public health funding relied on by the CDC, state and county health departments.
Community Health Centers serve patients who experience a wide range of social and environmental factors that affect their health. Community health centers cannot do this alone, and rely on local, state and national public health partners. Therefore, cutting money from one part of the nation’s public health infrastructure to fund another is misguided. In fact, three North Carolina Community Health Centers are public entity Community Health Centers, which means they serve as community health centers and local public health departments simultaneously. Reductions in funding in the Public Health Prevention Trust fund could diminish their ability to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies which impact everyone.
NCCHCA strongly supports bipartisan legislation, H.R. 3770, led in the House by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), David Young (R-IA) and Joe Courtney (D-CT) and S.1899, introduced in the Senate by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Both of these bills call for a longer, 5-year extension of the CHCF, and the significant bipartisan support for each shows there is widespread agreement on the need for long-term stability in CHC funding. While we support the two-year extension included in the House proposal, we remain committed to working with Health Center champions in both parties and in both chambers on an eventual long-term solution to the funding cliff.
We look to our members of Congress to seek an immediate, attainable fix to the Community Health Center Funding Cliff that can pass Congress with bipartisan support, without crippling public health.