Stabenow Leads Bipartisan Group of 66 Senators Urging Support for Community Health Centers
Senators warn that 70 percent cut in funding will make it harder for Michigan families to get access to health careWednesday, October 01, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, along with 65 other Senators, urged Senate leaders to support community health centers, which are set to have their funding cut by nearly 70 percent next September. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) the bipartisan group of 66 Senators explained that this financial cliff will likely result in site closures and devastating staff layoffs, preventing millions of people in high-need communities from access to cost-effective, primary care services. Sen. Stabenow is co-chair of the Senate Community Health Centers Caucus.
"Many families in Michigan rely on community health centers for basic medical services," said Stabenow. "Without these centers, many patients would go without critical health care or be forced to turn to emergency rooms, which are more expensive and not designed to meet primary health care needs. There is clearly a strong bipartisan agreement that we need to support community health centers, and I intend to find a way to put aside party differences to get this done."
Health centers serve as the health care home for nearly 600,000 Michigan residents in 200 clinics across the state.
The letter reads in part: "[Operational funding] reductions could result in the closure of health center sites, layoffs of providers and staff, and most importantly, a loss of access to primary and preventive care for millions of patients who often have no other place to turn. The effect of this reduction would be felt beyond health centers themselves, with a more expensive and less efficient health care system along with a loss of access to care and economic vitality in thousands of communities across the country."
Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Tom Carper (D-DE), and John Boozman (R-AR) co-led the letter.
The full text of the letter follows:
The Honorable Harry Reid
S-221 US Capitol
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
S-230 US Capitol
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Leader Reid and Leader McConnell,
We are writing to share our support for community health centers and to bring to your attention an issue that could threaten the access to the cost-effective primary and preventive care they provide. We respectfully request your continued support of the Health Centers program to ensure our local health centers can continue delivering access to primary and preventive health care services beyond Fiscal Year (FY) 2015.
Health Centers have a long history of bipartisan support. Since the first community health centers were founded nearly fifty years ago, health centers have become the nation's largest primary care network, collectively serving more than 22 million patients in more than 9,000 communities in every state and territory. Health centers are locally-governed small businesses providing a comprehensive range of primary care services while remaining responsive to community needs. Health centers employ more than 150,000 people, and generate an economic impact in the billions in some of the nation's most economically deprived communities. Studies have shown health centers generate savings to the health care system on the order of $24 billion annually, primarily through reductions in unnecessary Emergency Department (ED) visits and hospitalizations.
Health Centers represent one of the most prudent investments we can make within our health care system. However, after FY 2015, Health Centers are facing reductions of between sixty and seventy percent to their operational funding. The reductions could result in the closure of health center sites, layoffs of providers and staff, and most importantly, a loss of access to primary and preventive care for millions of patients who often have no other place to turn. The effect of this reduction would be felt beyond health centers themselves, with a more expensive and less efficient health care system along with a loss of access to care and economic vitality in thousands of communities across the country.
We know the current budgetary constraints and that difficult choices must be made in this fiscal climate. However, we earnestly hope that we will work together in a bipartisan way to responsibly address this situation in a way that ensures continued sustainability and viability of community health centers across America.
Thank you very much for your consideration of our thoughts and for your steadfast support to ensure community health centers continue to play vital roles in our communities in the future.