GOP chairman: Leaders could add health-center funds to stopgap spending bill

GOP chairman: Leaders could add health-center funds to stopgap spending bill
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WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenDemocrats get the health care fight they want with prescription drug bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Turf war derails push on surprise medical bills | Bill would tax e-cigarettes to pay for anti-vaping campaign | .5M ad blitz backs vulnerable Dems on drug prices Turf war derails bipartisan push on surprise medical bills MORE (R-Ore.) said Friday that GOP leaders are looking to attach funding for community health centers to a short-term stopgap measure to keep the government open next week.

The billions in funding would serve as a sweetener, designed to attract Democratic votes for the continuing resolution (CR).

“We hope to” add the health-centers funding to the CR, Walden told The Hill in a brief interview on the final day of the joint House-Senate GOP policy retreat.

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Leadership is looking at attaching “two years” of funding for the health centers, Walden said, which would amount to several billions of dollars. But Walden cautioned that the details were still being ironed out as House leadership crafts yet another CR to avert a government shutdown.

The House is expected to vote next week on a stopgap measure to keep the government’s lights on through March 23. If lawmakers don’t act by Thursday’s deadline, they will be responsible for the second government shutdown in as many months.

Congress has yet to permanently reauthorize funding for community health centers, which provide care to roughly 27 million poor and uninsured Americans from largely rural areas.

At issue is a fund comprising 70 percent of community health centers' federal funding. The dollars were a noncontroversial provision of ObamaCare, and generally have bipartisan support. In 2015, Congress reauthorized the fund for two years to the tune of $7.2 billion — but that authorization expired on Sept. 30.

Before lawmakers left Washington for the holidays, they passed a stopgap spending bill that included $550 million for community health centers through March 31.

But the funding uncertainty has had an impact.

It has "unnecessarily destabilized the health center network," the National Association of Community Health Centers said in a recent statement.

About 20 percent of the centers have implemented hiring freezes, a quarter have cancelled or delayed a renovation or expansion and 4 percent have laid off staff, according to a Thursday Kaiser Family Foundation report.