Despite widespread bipartisan agreement on the need to pass long-term funding for Community Health Centers, this funding was not included in the Continuing Resolution introduced in the House. Instead, Congress’ short-term funding proposal pits crucial health programs against each other. It includes a six-year funding extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), while neglecting to fund Community Health Centers (also known as Federally Qualified Health Centers or FQHCs) and a number of other important health programs whose funding has lapsed.
Community Health Center’s (CHC’s) now face a 70% reduction in funds without Congress action. Such a dramatic loss of funds would be catastrophic for the one million Illinoisans and 27 million people nationwide who depend on CHCs for their care. Underserved communities would be hardest hit. One out of every three people living in poverty and one out of four rural Americans depend on CHCs for health care services. Indeed, these clinics are not only a source of care but also provide good jobs to these communities. In addition, CHC’s provide care and services for many children enrolled in CHIP, so funding CHIP without funding CHC’s creates an unnecessary barrier to access for children across our state.
Congress’ inability to respond to the health center funding cliff leaves health centers and their patients facing considerable damage with each passing day. Already, health centers are instituting hiring freezes and deferring plans to invest in their communities. If Congress does not fund CHCs by the end of the month, layoffs and site closures are sure to follow. An estimated 50,000 jobs and care for nine millions patients are in jeopardy.
Health centers simply cannot wait another month for a resolution of this crisis. We urge the House and Senate to continue to work towards a final package that includes long-term funding for Community Health Centers, CHIP and other critical health care extenders by January 19th.