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Letter To The Honorable Tom Harkin and Arlen Specter, Chairman And Ranking Member, Senate Subcommittee On Labor, Health And Human Services, Education And Related Agencies

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) today organized a bipartisan group of 58 U.S. Senators to send a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, urging them to adequately fund the Community Health Centers program that provides quality, affordable healthcare for millions of Americans.

"In an economic crisis like the one we face today, too many American families are faced with the prospect of losing their health insurance, their paycheck, or both," said Stabenow. "This program helps existing centers cope with the increase in demand for their services, while allowing for the establishment of new centers in communities that so desperately need them. I am proud to join with so many of my colleagues in the Senate from both sides of the aisle in working to protect some of the most hard-hit families during these tough times."

Senator Stabenow has been recognized as a "Champion for the Medically Underserved" by the Michigan Primary Care Association, and serves on the Senate Finance Committee, where she plays a role in the effort to reform health care in America. The American Recovery and Reinvestment act provided $2 billion nationwide for Community Health Centers, including over $8.5 million in funding for centers in Michigan so far, which will help serve over 53,000 additional patients.

Full text of the letter is below:

Dear Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Specter,

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 $2.602 billion for the Health Centers program in the FY2010 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations legislation. The Health Care Safety Net Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-355), which was unanimously passed by Congress, authorized this funding level.

As you know, 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 healthcare 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 sincerely appreciate your continued efforts to expand this important program.

Thanks to the leadership of the Committee, health centers are now the health-care home for more than 18 million Americans. And yet, there continues to be overwhelming demand for community health centers and the primary care services they provide in communities nationwide, with scores more high-quality applications for health centers than funding available. During these difficult economic times, existing health centers are seeing a surge in their patients and the pressing need for health care access in areas without a health center is even more acute. In order to serve truly those in need across the country, we must continue to support and expand existing health centers and develop new centers in underserved areas. This FY2010 funding request is an investment in a longer-term plan envisioned by the Health Care Safety Net Act to provide care in a health center to 30 million Americans by 2015.

We hope to work with the Subcommittee to guide this investment around several priorities. First, a significant and strategic investment in existing health centers is needed to help them meet the increasing demand for services in the communities they serve. Second, new and expanded health centers should be funded in communities with little or no access to care. Lastly, in order to make a comprehensive range of necessary services available at every health center, funding should be provided to integrate mental health, oral health, and pharmacy services in high need communities.

We know your 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 the authorized level of $2.602 billion for FY2010. Thank you for considering our request. We look forward to working with you this year to continue to expand this important program.


Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO)
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI)
Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI)
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI)
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA)
Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK)
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO)
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT)
Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA)
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI)
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-DE)
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN)
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Sen. Robert Wicker (R-MS)
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE)
Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY)
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)
Sen. Frank Lautenburg (D-NJ)
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA)
Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL)
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Sen. James Risch (R-ID)
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

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