More than $128 million to operate 219 community health centers around the country - including $160,417 for the first facility in Addison County - was awarded today in a new round of grants under the Affordable Care Act.
A provision by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the 2010 health care reform law authorized $11 billion to build, expand, and operate community health centers nationwide. The funding was designed to dramatically double to 40 million the number of patients served by health centers regardless of their ability to pay.
In today's round of grants, the Community Health Centers of the Rutland Region was awarded the $160,417 in operational funds for this year to establish the office in Shoreham, Vt. Today's approval was foreshadowed by the May 1 announcement that $1.3 million was awarded to build the new Addison County facility. The satellite office will be the first Federally Qualified Health Center site in the rural county of 37,000 residents.
"As chairman of the subcommittee on primary health care, I am proud that we have seen in recent years a doubling of funding for community health centers to address the primary health crisis in Vermont and America. I am especially proud that in the last seven years, we have seen a major expansion of community health centers in our state and now more than 120,000 Vermonters have access to high-quality primary health care, dental care, mental health counseling and low-cost prescription drugs. Today, the community health center program has expanded to serve Addison County, and that is a great step forward," Sanders said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said, "Community health centers are essential to Vermont's health care infrastructure. They offer local, dependable health services that reflect the particular needs of the community. The health reform law ensures a role for community health centers, and these grants help honor that commitment in Vermont."
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said, "Community health services are integral to ensuring all Vermonters have access to affordable, quality health care. Increasing the availability of primary care services in rural communities is good for Vermont and saves money through investments in preventative care. Vermont leads the nation in providing quality health care to all its citizens regardless of income. These funds will ensure we continue this leading role."
In Vermont, an $11.3 million new facility at the Community Health Centers of Burlington was opened on Monday. Another $10 million in federal funds was previously awarded to other Vermont health centers to hire more staff and renovate facilities. Altogether, there are now eight federally qualified health centers in Vermont. Each has satellite sites creating a total of 48 locations treating more than 121,000 patients, one of the highest participation rates in the country.
Nationwide, today's announcement will help expand access to care for more than 1.25 million additional patients and create approximately 5,640 jobs.
Open to everyone, the centers care for patients covered by Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance, as well as those who have no insurance. Payments are on a sliding scale, so people with low or moderate incomes can afford the services.