The Community Health Center Funding Cliff is Coming:
2 Months to a Precipitous Drop in Access.
On Thursday and Friday of last week, the U.S. Senate considered health care legislation that would have impacted health insurance markets and Medicaid coverage across the country. North Carolina Community Health Centers were concerned that these proposals would decrease health insurance coverage and access to health care for the patients and communities we serve. No changes were passed last week and, thus, the current health care system remains. National healthcare reform may yet happen, but community health centers have even more immediate concerns.
On October 1, 2017 – just two months from now – Community Health Centers are slated to lose 70% of the federal funding that supports services to the uninsured across our country. The impact in North Carolina would be a loss of $69 million in federal funds, an estimated 100,000 patients losing access to care, and 1,000 jobs lost. The implications for the safety net are even broader. All federal funding for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and the Graduate Medical Education Teaching Health Centers (THC) programs will also end. These programs provide debt relief to and grow the workforce of primary care providers who choose to serve in underserved communities across the country. Finally, funding for the Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP) program, which provides insurance coverage for children in families with low incomes expires on the same day, September 30, 2107.
Representative James Clyburn has introduced H.R. 3059: Community Health Center and Primary Care Workforce Expansion Act of 2017, and Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced a bill with the same title on the Senate side, S. 1441. These bills would provide funding for Community Health Centers, NHSC, THC and the Nurse Practitioner Residency Training Program. Congress should move to pass these immediately.
There isn’t enough time to be disappointed or relieved with the results of this week’s healthcare debate. Instead, we need everyone in Congress – and all supporters of primary care safety net programs and health insurance coverage for children – to get back to work on renewing funding for integral programs that are supported by from all angles of the political spectrum.