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Recognizing National Health Center Week


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More than 21 million people are getting health care at nearly 9,000 community health center sites in every state and territory.

They include people like Jeanne Michie, who moved from Illinois to Arizona with her husband due to his health issues. In the move, she had to quit her job, leaving her without insurance, even though she required monthly medications. At Sun Life Family Health Center in Eloy, they got care regardless of their ability to pay. Jeanne said, "I never thought I would be in that situation. But everybody needs somebody to help them through the choppy waters of health care."

We recognize health centers during National Health Center Week, which for more than 45 years, have served people like Jeanne, whether they had private insurance, coverage through a public program like Medicaid or CHIP, or no insurance at all.

Health centers are places where mothers can take their children for dental checkups or flu shots, where seniors can fill their prescriptions, and where adults can turn for help in managing their hypertension or diabetes. They are also key sources of local employment and economic growth.

That's why health centers are one of the best investments our country can make in its future, and why the Obama administration has made expanding our nation's network of centers a top priority. Through the Affordable Care Act and the Recovery Act, we have made an historic investment in health centers: expanding their sites; hiring more staff; and introducing electronic health records. We have added thousands of health care professionals to the ranks of the National Health Service Corps, placing them where they're needed the most.

This means more people are getting primary care and staying out of the emergency room, children are getting the immunizations and care they need to thrive in school, and adults are getting help managing chronic conditions so they don't miss work.

And now health centers are expanding their vital outreach and education roles by connecting their patients with the new options for affordable, quality health coverage that are coming shortly through the Affordable Care Act. Open enrollment in the new Health Insurance Marketplace begins October 1. We recently awarded $150 million to nearly 1,200 health center grantees across the country to help them reach uninsured Americans and get them signed up for coverage in the new Marketplace.

We know that just because people have the opportunity to get new coverage -- whether through the Marketplace or Medicaid expansion -- doesn't mean they know about it. Health centers are uniquely positioned to contribute to our educational and outreach efforts so that millions more people can get the security that affordable, quality health coverage provides.

During National Health Week and beyond, we celebrate the special role that community health centers play in the nation's well-being and public health.

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