GOP, protecting community health centers is good policy, tactics

GOP, protecting community health centers is good policy, tactics
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Mark me down as a Republican that believes our party should continue to support the extension of the Community Health Center Fund. I personally see it is a continuation of GOP willingness to foster programs that provide care for the underserved and help improve our communities in the most efficient way. Leadership might consider lengthening the term of the community health center funding extension in consideration of other needed entitlement reforms.  

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As the Governor of Utah, I experienced first-hand the ability of community health centers (CHCs) to enhance delivering health care to those often excluded from the system. In an effort to stretch Medicaid dollars in my state in order to provide coverage and care for more people, I turned to community health centers statewide to help fill gaps in care. The CHCs responded by creating a network of in-neighborhood clinics that allowed Medicaid to serve large numbers who would otherwise have been without coverage or care.  

During my service as the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under President George W. Bush, I was charged with increasing the number and quality of 1200 community health centers. In doing so I visited CHCs across the country and came to understand although each one has a unique story, they collectively share the same origin: being created when people in a community observed a need. As such, CHCs are one of our nation’s most evident example of American compassion.

My work with CHCs also helped me understand that federal funding is critical to the stabilization of the entire CHC system in the United States. As the country’s largest primary-care network, community health centers (CHCs) provide a range of services —including mental health and emergency response services to those in crisis, primary care to uninsured, and medical homes for patients who need it most — to nearly 26 million patients who would otherwise not be cared for.

Additionally, the Community Health Center Fund has stabilized and expanded CHC service sites throughout the country, helped expand residency programs, facilitated the placement of health care professionals in underserved rural and urban communities through funding the National Health Service Corps, and supported addressing population health/social determinant needs.

Furthermore, CHCs have generated $45.6 billion in total economic revenue, a 46 percent increase in only five years, employ nearly 190,000 people, and save the nation’s health care system nearly $24 billion annually.

For over 50 years, community health centers have served the nation’s most vulnerable patients at a value to the American tax-payer. As one of the 10 most effective government programs, community health centers play an important role in improving quality and access to care for millions of Americans.

Republicans have a well-deserved reputation of building the significant network of charitably-driven, locally-grounded, life-improving care givers. Community health centers represent a hallmark of Republican’s compassion for the poor, support for strong civic institutions, and advocacy for effective health care, which we should be proud to protect.

Mike Leavitt is the founder of Leavitt Partners and former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2005-2009) and former governor of Utah (1993-2003).