The U.S. Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act early last Friday morning to extend funding for community health centers for two more years, ending months of uncertainty for the nation’s nearly 10,000 clinic sites, which served 26 million people in 2016. The bill also provides funding for the National Health Service Corps and for Teaching Health Centers and extended the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for the next decade.
Earlier, faculty from George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health published reports and commentaries and explained the urgency of the problem in media interviews.
Most recently, Sara Rosenbaum, JD, was quoted by Vox in an article titled “Congress has quietly created a new health care crisis for 26 million Americans.” She commented on the Congress’ surprising decision in late January to fund CHIP, but not community health centers. Leighton Ku, PhD, MPH, spoke about the implications of the same decision on National Public Radio’s “1A” program (broadcast on WAMU radio station in Washington). The program, A Crisis in Community Health, also featured observations by people who administer, use and depend on the program.
Ku was also quoted in an article in The Hill, Neighborhood health clinics popular with veterans face crisis as federal funding evaporates.” He pointed out that the people served by these centers are among the nation’s neediest and that the loss of health centers will impact more than care because they have also become a part of the local economy. The article also mentioned the study by a team led by Ku showing that more than 100,000 jobs could be lost if the funding was not renewed. The Washington Business Journal also mentioned the study in “Community health clinics may face fiscal cliff if Congress doesn't act soon.”
An Op-Ed by Rosenbaum in the Milbank Quarterly from October 2017, The Community Health Center Fund: What’s At Risk? was also the object of renewed attention in recent weeks.
At the end of the Op-Ed, Rosenbaum said: “In a world of political polarization, one of health centers’ true achievements has been the embrace of the program by policymakers along all points of the political spectrum. Like CHIP, health centers are a small program, but one with an outsize influence on health care in America. Even in this time of high political drama, when the future direction of US health policy is, frankly, anyone’s guess, lawmakers speak glowingly of health centers. Now all they need to do is act.”
Rosenbaum, Ku and others who believe that community health centers play a key role in ensuring the health of the nation’s citizens are delighted that the centers’ futures are assured for at least the next two years.