Cochran, Wicker Push for Critical Community Health  Center Funding
Bipartisan Senate Support for Program as Congress Looks to Two-Year Extension

From:  News Release   2/7/18   GCN

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) are part of a bipartisan majority calling on the Senate leadership to support immediate reauthorization of community health center funding.

Sixty-seven Senators on Monday signed a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) expressing strong support for community health centers and requesting reauthorization for the program, which lapsed last September.

Cochran and Wicker joined the effort to support the 21 community health centers with 187 sites in 70 Mississippi counties. These facilities provide cost-effective primary and preventive care to more than 280,000 Mississippians annually.

“Community health centers serve a vital function, providing affordable health care to our nation’s most vulnerable citizens,” wrote the senators. “They provide quality medical, dental, vision and behavioral health care to more than 27 million patients, including 330,000 of our nation’s veterans and 8 million children, at over 10,000 sites nationwide. … Without extension of the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF), community health centers will lose seventy percent of their funding. This will result in an estimated 2,800 site closures, the loss of 50,000 jobs, and approximately 9 million Americans losing access to their health care.”

The CHCF expired on Sept. 30, 2017, jeopardizing access to care for patients and making it difficult for community health centers to adequately plan for everything from staffing needs to securing loans for capital projects.

The House of Representatives on Monday night released legislation addressing the problem as part of a must-pass spending bill. The legislation, known as a continuing resolution, includes a two-year extension for community health centers. It would also avoid a partial government shutdown on Feb. 8 by funding federal government operations until March 23.

Under the community health center provisions, the continuing resolution includes supplementary awards to help community health centers increase access to primary care services by expanding the use of telehealth. Cochran and Wicker have promoted this policy in legislation they’ve authored, including the CONNECT for Health Act.

The text of the letter is available below and here:

Dear Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer:

We write to express our concern over funding for community health centers, which expired on September 30, 2017. We strongly urge you to reauthorize this funding immediately.

Community health centers serve a vital function, providing affordable health care to our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. They provide quality medical, dental, vision and behavioral health care to more than 27 million patients, including 330,000 of our nation’s veterans and 8 million children, at over 10,000 sites nationwide. By offering preventative care, treating chronic conditions, and working to fight the opioid epidemic, community health centers are not only greatly improving the health and well-being of those they serve, they are also saving significant taxpayer dollars.

Without extension of the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF), community health centers will lose seventy percent of their funding. This will result in an estimated 2,800 site closures, the loss of 50,000 jobs, and approximately 9 million Americans losing access to their health care. Moreover, community health centers operate as small businesses and require a level of predictability to operate and respond to the needs of their communities. Since the expiration of the CHCF, community health centers have not been able to adequately plan for everything from staffing needs to securing loans for capital projects. In addition, the expiration of the National Health Service Corps and Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education program threatens the ability of health centers to meet their workforce needs.

For more than fifty years, community health centers have experienced strong bipartisan support. In fact, twenty bipartisan senators cosponsor legislation which reauthorizes funding not only for community health centers but also for the National Health Service Corps.

We look forward to working with you to reach a bipartisan agreement to fund the community health center program and enable our community health centers to continue providing high quality and affordable care to those in need.