Community health centers await funding that expired months ago

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While Congress on Monday extended the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years, more than 1,000 community health centers around the country are still waiting for the government to take action on their own funding. 

Both programs expired at the end of September, but only CHIP was funded in the short-term spending bill signed by President Trump. 

Health centers — and those who advocate for them — are becoming anxious and frustrated. 

{mosads}”Health center advocates and other supporters are continuing to emphasize with congressional leaders the critical need for health center funding to be renewed ASAP to avoid severe consequences to health center operations and their ability to serve patients, especially during a major flu epidemic and opioid crisis,” said Amy Simmons, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Community Health Centers. 

Community health centers cover about 27 million low-income people in 9,800 rural and urban communities across the U.S. 

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said funding for community health centers is being discussed in a long-term spending deal. The current bill ends Feb. 8. 

The House passed a bill funding community health centers for two years late last year, but Democrats opposed it because of the offsets, and it went nowhere in the Senate. 

“I share the passion of community health centers. I’ve always been a big advocate of community health centers, and that’s why we fully funded them for two years in the legislation residing in the Senate. We do not have agreement on that,” Walden told reporters last week.

The Health Resources and Services Administration, under the Department of Health and Human Services, has made money available to centers whose grants expired early in the new year. 

“That emergency funding carries them out until March. It’s not quite as dire a cut off as what we’re facing with CHIP,” he said. 

“That’s all being wrapped up in the bigger, broader budget discussions that’s dealing with the [spending] caps issue.” 

Health centers have had to put on hold plans to expand services and facilities, and some have even ordered a hiring freeze or laid off staff. 

Democrats criticized Republicans for including a delay of several ObamaCare taxes in the most recent spending deal, but no funding for community health centers and other health programs. 

“We feel really strongly about community health centers, visiting nurses, rural health extenders being left out and yet a big corporation like UnitedHealth will benefit from the health insurance [tax] delay,” Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said last week. 

Tags Donald Trump Greg Walden Ron Wyden
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