Thursday night, the Health Centers Renewal Act of 2008 (HR 1343) was signed by President Bush. In June the legislation passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 393-24. Congressman Gene Green (D-Texas) is the sponsor of this bill and Congressman Chip Pickering (R-Mississippi) is the lead Republican co-sponsor. This measure will provide additional appropriations for health centers to meet the health care needs of medically underserved populations by increasing federal funding for five years. The bill will allow health centers to serve 30 million patients by 2015 and provide expanded coverage for dental and mental health services.
"As I come close to the end of my service in Congress, I can think of no better thing to go out on as the reauthorization, expansion, funding, and modernization of the community health centers. I know for Mississippi, community health centers have made a tremendous difference after Katrina by getting those who were evacuated after the disaster the help they needed. But, more importantly, everyday they give affordable and accessible care to mothers, elderly and low income residents that otherwise they would not have."
Mississippi has 22 community health centers with 152 delivery sites. After Katrina, these health centers treated 17,870 evacuees in Mississippi, 77% of who were without health insurance. Services provided at these sites can include basic primary and preventive medical care along with onsite dental care and pharmacies. Congressman Pickering has not only been involved in legislation to improve health centers, but also active in securing funding for the facilities to ensure they are up-to-date with top quality conditions and new technology. He recently attended the groundbreaking ceremony for Amite County Medical Services. The new facility has a completion date of March 2009.
"Community health centers have played a vital role to Mississippi, Pickering concluded. "I am very proud to be a part of this reauthorization and to see it signed by President Bush before the end of my term."