Vermont, NH senators call for renewal of lapsed health center funding

Vermont, NH senators call for renewal of lapsed health center funding
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Vermont and New Hampshire’s senators are urging Senate leaders to work to pass legislation funding community health centers after a major source of their federal dollars lapsed Sept. 30.

Community health centers are a large source of comprehensive primary care for some of the nation’s most vulnerable, serving 27 million people. They take any patient who walks in their doors, regardless of if they have insurance, and Congress let a fund expire that represents 70 percent of their federal grant revenue.

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“We write to express our serious concerns about the expiration of funding for [Health Resources and Services Administration]’s Health Center Program more than two months ago,” the four wrote. “Congress’ failure to extend this funding has caused service disruptions for the 22 community health centers and their many patients across New Hampshire and Vermont.”

The centers, which are generally supported by both parties, haven’t seen their funding drop yet, but those with grant periods wrapping up at the end of the year — about 25 percent — would be impacted if Congress doesn’t renew the funds. The Health Resources and Services Administration plans to help out as long as it can on a prorated basis using available fiscal 2018 discretionary dollars and remaining mandatory funds, a spokesperson said.

The senators pointed to the impact the uncertainty is already having, with centers halting renovation or expansion projects, instituting hiring freezes, delaying the launch of new medical services and having trouble retaining existing and recruiting new staff.

The four lawmakers noted the particular impact on rural communities, where community health centers “are often the only healthcare facilities for many miles, and in urban areas, they often provide services tailored to underserved populations.”

The senators also called on lawmakers to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program and other health programs that had Sept. 30 funding lapses.