WASHINGTON D.C. — Around 30 million Americans rely on community health centers for their primary medical care, according to lawmakers on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP).
The committee heard from medical experts Thursday about the impact these federally supported health care facilities have on the patients who use them, as federal funding is set to expire in a few months.
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Community health centers serve people who live far from hospitals, lack health insurance, or face other barriers keeping them from easily accessing primary care facilities.
“Investing in health centers doesn’t just save lives, it saves money,” said Amanda Kelly, Chief Executive Officer of Advocates for Community Health in her testimony before the committee.
Community health centers are especially beneficial to people living in rural areas.
“Tell us a little bit about what happens in rural America when people have no hope, no access to healthcare they need,” asked Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chair of the HELP Committee.
“Without access to care, mental health care, substance use disorder treatment, those things get worse, and they get worse quickly,” said Ben Harvey, Chief Executive Officer of the Indiana Primary Health Care Association.
Community health centers get around $5.8 billion a year in federal funding, but that is set to expire on Sept. 30, 2023.
“Getting this and other reauthorizations done on time and in a fiscally responsible way is my priority,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Ranking Member of the HELP Committee.
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Community healthcare advocates urged lawmakers to make sure the funding doesn’t run out.
“Health center staffing and service volume are particularly sensitive to changes in federal health center grant levels,” said Dr. Robert Nocon, Assistant Professor for Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine.
According to the committee, around 100 million Americans live in a primary medical care desert.
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