U.S. Senators Kit Bond (R-MO) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) recently led a bipartisan group of Senators in an effort to increase funding for our nation's Community Health Centers (CHCs) in fiscal year 2011. The Senators stressed that CHCs continue to act as a vital health care safety net to millions of Americans, many without insurance, living in both rural and urban areas across the country.
"Community Health Centers serve on the front lines, providing patients in need of health care with high quality, cost effective, accessible care," said Bond. "These centers are an indispensable component of the health care safety net in Missouri and throughout the country. I am pleased to partner with a bipartisan group of my colleagues in an effort to expand health centers across the nation."
"Michigan's community health centers currently serve over 500,000 patients at over 160 sites across the state," said Stabenow. "Supporting these health centers, where families can afford quality primary care, has been a top priority of mine for many years. It's great to join colleagues on both sides of the aisle to recognize the important work being done in communities across the country by America's community health centers."
In a letter to Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS), the Senators urged the committee to include $2.56 billion for CHC's in fiscal year 2011. Bond and Stabenow noted the growing need for the primary care services these centers provide. As the economy continues to struggle, CHCs across the country have seen an increase in patients seeking access to affordable health care -- making the expansion of existing centers and the construction of new ones even more pressing.
"We deeply appreciate the bipartisan leadership of U.S. Senators Kit Bond and Debbie Stabenow and their hard work in championing the mission and work of America's Health Centers," said Dan Hawkins, Senior Vice President for Public Policy at the National Association of Community Health Centers. "Once again, they have stepped up to lead the effort to grow the Health Centers program, so that millions of medically underserved people will have a fighting chance at good health. This increase will also help our existing health centers deliver care to the growing volumes of patients coming into their doors every day."
The Senators pointed out that CHCs are available to anyone and that no one is turned away, regardless of their ability to pay. Additionally, Bond and Stabenow highlighted years of research showing CHCs are routinely able to keep their health care costs well below those of other health care providers and that patients who use CHCs have better outcomes while using emergency rooms less.
In sending the letter, Senators Bond and Stabenow were joined by a bipartisan group of 50 other Senators.
The full text of the letter is below and a pdf version is attached:
March 23, 2010
Dear Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Cochran,
Thank you for your work to invest in the infrastructure of America's health care safety net. Millions of Americans have lived longer and healthier lives due to your efforts. In order to continue that work with the goal of bringing care to all Americans in need, we respectfully request that you provide $2.56 billion for the Health Centers program in the FY2011 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations legislation. This amount still remains below the funding level authorized in the Health Care Safety Net Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-355).
The Health Centers program is a community-run health care delivery system that is open to all regardless of their ability to pay. At a time when health care costs have dramatically increased across the country, health centers have kept their costs well under those of other health care providers. In addition, years of research have shown that health centers actually save the health system money, and that their patients have better outcomes and use hospital emergency rooms less than those who get their care in other settings. Simply put, the Health Centers program works and we wholeheartedly appreciate your continued efforts to expand this important program.
Thanks to the leadership of the Subcommittee, health centers are now the health care home for over 20 million Americans. Yet there continues to be overwhelming demand for community health centers and the primary care services they provide; in these difficult economic times, existing health centers have seen a surge in their patients, especially in the number of uninsured, and the pressing need for health care access in areas without a health center is even more acute. In order to truly serve those in need across the country, we must continue to support and expand existing health centers and develop new centers in underserved areas.
We know the subcommittee has a very difficult task ahead, but we strongly urge you to continue the health center expansion effort to communities in need by increasing federal funding for the Community Health Centers program to $2.56 billion for FY2011. Thank you for considering our request. We look forward to working with you this year to continue to expand this important program.
Christopher S. Bond