This is a special feature that has been produced or updated for National Health Center Week (NHCW). NHCW brings awareness to the various challenges health centers and their patients face and recognizes that patient health starts at the heart of their communities.
Community Health Centers (CHCs) essentially operate like small businesses and need to plan for their futures to ensure stable finances. Health centers have recently had to wait until the last minute to know whether or not funding will be there. This is due to the fact that CHCs are federally qualified health centers, meaning they are funded by the U.S. government. Nearly two-thirds of health center revenue comes from Medicaid funding and the grant, Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act.¹ Health Centers are not able to function to the best of their ability when living with financial uncertainty. Funding is essential for the sustainability of health centers.
Community Health Centers provide care to 28 million Americans across the country. CHCs operate primarily on federal funding in order to effectively care for all those patients.² The United States currently spends more on health care than any other country in the world, and a large share of that spending comes from the federal government.³ Our nation’s representatives protect Health Centers through laws and support of this funding. It is important to recognize and appreciate the individuals and bodies who keep our care centers afloat.
This funding is currently under jeopardy. Congress is in the midst of making decisions to either continue or end federal funding to our community health centers. For the past two years the funding has been extended by a few months each time, but advocates are urging for long-term funding so health centers can continue to provide care without worry. The funding is now currently set to expire in November of 2020. However, note that there is a bipartisan agreement that funding should continue.
OUR OBSERVATION: The Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee is considering passing a bill, the S. 1895, The Lower Health Care Costs Act, which would increase health center funding for another 5 years.² This bill would be a significant step in closing our nation’s health care gap.
Advocacy for the passing of this bill and for the extension of federal funding is necessary for Health Centers to function. During the pandemic, this need has been heightened. Around 30 million Americans have lost their jobs during these past few months, and therefore their health care coverage, during the public health emergency.⁴ This makes health centers critical to the response of this crisis. HRSA reports that 94 percent of health centers are currently operating as COVID-19 testing sites.⁵
In 2018, 43 percent of health centers were working under negative operating margins. This issue has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, forcing layoffs, furloughs and service terminations, such as dental and vision, and site closures. For example, just in March, 60 percent of New Jersey health centers were reporting a negative operating margin of 29 percent. HRSA reports that more than 1,000 health centers across the country still remain closed.⁶
The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations (CARES) Act provided some relief, allocating $1.32 billion to health centers to respond to the crisis. However, this only translates to $50 per patient nationwide. This dire situation further highlights the necessity of long-term funding for health centers.⁶
Showing appreciation for stakeholders and advocating for federal funding is highly suggested in order to ensure the passing of S. 1895 and more long-term legislation like it. Help health centers secure funding for the new year by continuing to press your congress members on the importance of this issue. Federal funding for Community Health Centers is a bipartisan issue, so everyone can be involved.
OUR CAUSE: Certintell is committed to Community Health Centers, which rely on government funding to function. We support the passage of S. 1895 to ensure funding for health centers going forward. We appreciate stakeholders’ support of this bill, in hopes of it passing and ultimately helping achieve our broader goal of expanding health care to all in need across the nation.
➠ Invite legislators to come tour your local health center or advocate for it on social media. Reach out to them to advocate for CHCs!
Editor’s Note: Information is subject to change and will be updated as future events regarding funding unfold.
¹ “Community Health Center Financing: The Role of Medicaid and Section 330 Grant Funding Explained.” Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 26 Mar. 2019, www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/community-health-center-financing-the-role-of-medicaid-and-section-330-grant-funding-explained.
² “Senate Committee to Vote on Health Center Funding – NACHC.” NACHC, 26 June 2019, www.nachc.org/senate-committee-to-vote-on-health-center-funding.
³ “American Health Care: Health Spending and the Federal Budget.” Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, 16 May. 2018, www.crfb.org/papers/american-health-care-health-spending-and-federal-budget.
⁴ “About 30 Million Workers Are Collecting Jobless Benefits.” Cohen, Patricia, The New York Times, 24 July 2020, www.nytimes.com/live/2020/07/23/business/stock-market-today-coronavirus.
⁵ Health Resources and Services Administration. “Health Center COVID-19 Survey.” Bureau of Primary Health Care, 17 July 2020, bphc.hrsa.gov/emergency-response/coronavirus-health-center-data.
⁶ Shin, Peter, et al. “Keeping Community Health Centers Strong During the Coronavirus Pandemic Is Essential to Public Health.” Health Affairs, 10 Apr. 2020, www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20200409.175784/full.