Donnelly, Bipartisan Group of Senators Continue Push for Community Health Centers Funding

Senator has advocated for funding, which supports health centers across the U.S., including 19 federally qualified health centers in Indiana

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly, along with a bipartisan group of senators led by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), last night called on Senate leadership to immediately reauthorize funding for community health centers. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, the Senators expressed their strong support for community health centers, which provide access to cost-effective primary and preventive care for families across the country. 

“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.” 

As the senators note in their letter, the Community Health Center Fund expired on September 30, 2017. The failure to reauthorize the fund has jeopardized access to care for millions of Americans, and made it difficult for community health centers to adequately plan for everything from staffing needs to securing loans for capital projects. The Community Health Centers Fund helps support 19 federally qualified health centers in Indiana. Without reauthorizing funding for community health centers they could be forced to make difficult choices, including reducing their workforce, imposing hiring freezes, or shutting their doors.

Prior to the funding expiring, Donnelly was part of a group of 70 Senators who sent a letter, urging the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Chairman and Ranking Member to extend funding for community health centers. In October, Donnelly announced his support for the bipartisan Community Health Investment, Modernization, and Excellence Act, which would reauthorize funding for the Community Health Centers Fund. Last month, Donnelly took to the Senate floor calling for bipartisan action to address a number of pressing health care issues, including funding for the Community Health Center Fund and recently reiterated the importance of acting to fund community health centers.

A PDF of the letter is here and the full text is below.

February 5, 2018

The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Majority Leader

United States Senate

The Honorable Charles Schumer

Minority Leader

United States Senate

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.

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