The Obama Administration released its proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2016 on Feb. 2, 2015. The budget called for an additional $2.7 billion a year for three years in mandatory funding for community health centers. This amount would be combined with discretionary funding of $1.5 billion and reserve funding from the existing Health Centers Fund. Taken together, the budget calls for funding to support continued operations and services at FY15 level.
In response, Tom Van Coverden, president & CEO of the National Association of Community Health Centers, issued this statement:
“For fifty years, America’s Health Centers have provided primary and preventive care to those communities and patients who have nowhere else to turn. We have done it by leveraging federal investments into high-quality primary and preventive care, delivering economic impact while saving the health-care system many times what is invested up front. Thanks to that longstanding bipartisan support, today health centers serve some 23 million patients, including nearly seven million children and more than one quarter million veterans.
However, health centers’ fifty-year legacy of providing access to care is at risk; current mandatory funding for health centers is set to expire at the end of September. Without action by Congress to address the huge shortfall, health centers nationwide would be forced to close sites — lay off providers and staff, and most importantly, turn away millions of patients in rural and underserved communities. Last year, 250 House members, 66 Senators and more than 100 national organizations called for a solution, yet with only eight months until the funding expires, it is time for Congress to act.
We are pleased to see that the budget proposal released by the President today acknowledges the need for a multi-year solution to the funding cliff. By proposing three years of additional mandatory funding, the President has clearly signaled that maintaining our nation’s investment in health centers must be a priority. Yet with 62 million Americans today without access to primary care, it makes sense not only to keep health centers where they are, but given the increasing demand — to continue investing in expanded access, better services and higher quality care. The dividends for patients, communities and the health-care system are enormous.
The budget also calls for a robust investment in the nation’s primary care workforce, calling for more than a doubling of field strength in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). NHSC providers, along with those residents trained in Teaching Health Centers, are fundamental to meeting health centers’ demand for clinicians. They also make the integrated health center model – with medical, oral, behavioral health, pharmacy and vision services under one roof – a reality for millions. These programs, too, will sunset without Congressional action this year, and must be sustained.
As Congress begins to examine fiscal and policy priorities for the year ahead, we look forward to working with leaders in both parties not only to address this looming threat to primary care access, but to invest wisely in health centers so that they may continue to meet the ever-growing demand for care in communities across America.”