Opinion: The Community Health Center Fund: What’s At Risk?
Tucked into the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a special 5-year funding authorization to expand the reach of the community health centers program. This special funding authority expired in 2015. As part of the funding extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that year, Congress also extended the Community Health Center Fund for an additional 2 years, through September 30, 2017. Once again, the Community Health Center Fund is traveling with CHIP, and as with CHIP, without action on Congress’s part, the future of an immensely popular program that enjoys bipartisan support is at risk.
Even for those who have worked for a very long time at the local, state, or national level to build the community health centers program, today’s health center statistics come as a shock. Beginning in 1965, a handful of health centers, launched as a demonstration program by the Office of Economic Opportunity, opened their doors in the nation’s most medically underserved and deeply impoverished urban and rural communities. Fifty years later, 1,367 health centers operating in over 10,400 sites provide care to nearly 26 million patients: 1 out of every 12 US residents, 1 in 6 Medicaid/CHIP beneficiaries, and 1 in 10 children under age 18. . .