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Public Statements

Repealing Mandatory Funding for the School Health Center Construction

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

I yield myself 3 minutes.

Mr. Chairman, once again I'm listening to my colleague Dr. Burgess, whom I respect, and he's talking about the common sense being lacking on the Democratic side. After listening to him, I think the rationale and the common sense is lacking on the Republican side.

My colleague from Texas has said over and over again he supports school-based clinics. He even supports Federal funding for school-based clinics. Then what is the possible rationale for posting this bill?

Many of my colleagues on the other side have said today they're opposed to the entire Affordable Care Act. They're opposed to funding the entire Affordable Care Act. Yet somehow today they're taking little pieces of the Affordable Care Act that they even agree with, from my understanding in listening to my colleague from Texas, and still saying we're going to defund them. I defy my colleague to really understand why.

School-based health clinics are a tremendous success story. These programs provide primary care, mental health, dental health services to vulnerable children across the country in every State. Multiple studies have found that these programs are cost-effective investments. They result in lower emergency room usage, hospitalizations, and Medicaid costs. In fact, patients seen at school-based health centers cost Medicaid on average $30.40 less than comparable non-school-based health center patients.

This is saving the Federal Government money. That's the bottom line. And what we're trying to do here is to basically provide for construction, renovation, and equipment for these centers. Now, in order to get the grant for that, you have to show that you have the funds to operate the center. So when Dr. Burgess says, why are you paying for construction, why are you paying for renovation, but you're not paying or you're not providing for operations? Every one of these has to show that they have the money to do the operations before they get the money for construction. What does construction and renovation mean? It means jobs.

I repeat again, when I was home for the last 2 weeks, all I heard from my constituents is, When are you going to improve the economy more? When are you going to create more jobs? This is a program that creates jobs, helps kids, provides for their well-being and their health, and it's all preventative. These projects have to be shovel ready in order to be funded. So we're talking about money that's going to be immediately spent to put these centers together and to renovate them.

I keep hearing my colleagues say repeal and replace. That's the mantra with the health care bill: We want to repeal it and replace it. But I never hear anything about replace. All I hear about is repeal, and in this case repealing a program that is a proven success.

It makes absolutely no sense to pass this bill. I hear my colleagues on the other side say over and over again they're for these clinics, they're for these centers. Then why in the world do you bring this bill to the floor?

I urge my colleagues to oppose this legislation.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, again, Dr. Burgess talks about how we're spending money on construction, renovation, but we don't provide mandatory spending for operations. As I said, in order to get the grant under the Affordable Care Act for construction of a school-based health center, you have to show that you have the money to operate.

So what does that mean? That means that we are using some Federal dollars to attract either State or in many cases private dollars to set up these centers. What is wrong with that? They are guaranteed that once the money is spent on construction and creating the jobs that come from the construction or renovation that the money is available to operate the centers. There's nothing wrong with that. It's actually a good thing. It promotes a Federal-State cooperation, and it brings in some private dollars as well.

The other thing I would point out is my colleague from Texas keeps talking about mandatory appropriations. The fact of the matter is that health care initiatives over the years, Democrat and Republican, have provided some mandatory, some discretionary. The same thing we're doing here. The fact of the matter is that Medicare, Medicaid, and a lot of other Federal health programs pay for health care services with mandatory expenditures. And a lot of that is for acute care, acute illness, injury, or chronic diseases. Now, there's no similar approach when it comes to promoting wellness, preventing disease, and protecting against health emergencies. So here for the first time now we're going to have a combination of some mandatory and some discretionary spending for a preventative program, a clinic, a center for kids in their schools that actually helps and prevents them from going to a hospital, to an emergency room, to be institutionalized. So I just think this is false, this notion of mandatory versus discretionary.

The bottom line is if you care about school-based centers and you want to have them, then I think you should oppose this bill because the legislation that this bill is seeking to kill, the Affordable Care Act, for the first time provides funding to put up a lot of these school-based centers. And this is what we need as a preventative measure to prevent these kids from having more serious problems, going to the emergency room. Let's give them primary care up front so they can stay well.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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