Reed Pushes for Community Health Center Funding to Help Improve Public Health & Address Disparities Exposed by COVID-19
Sen. Reed has delivered $11.4 million for RI CHCs & says additional federal funds are necessary to help those on front lines providing comprehensive and affordable primary health care to medically underserved populations
WASHINGTON, DC - In an effort to address economic and racial disparities in health care and prioritize federal funding for medically underserved communities, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) is calling on Congress to support Community Health Centers (CHCs) that provide Americans with critical health care, including testing and treatment of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Reed says that without additional federal support, CHCs across the country are at risk of closing and cutting off health care access to communities who are being hit hardest by COVID-19.
“I have long championed increased funding to reduce unacceptable health disparities and Community Health Centers are a key part of that effort. COVID-19 has highlighted glaring and persistent racial, economic, and health disparities. Congress must take long overdue steps to address these challenges and ensure every patient has access to needed care and healthy outcomes. Community Health Centers are a smart investment that make a world of difference and strengthen public health. CHCs provide quality, innovative care to all who come through their doors. I am committed to ensuring all Rhode Islanders can access the care they need and will continue pressing for federal funds to bolster our community health centers,” said Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, who helped lead efforts to include $5.4 billion for Community Health Centers (CHCs) in the fiscal year 2020 spending law to provide comprehensive, quality health care services to medically underserved communities and vulnerable populations.
Reed noted that Congress included $100 million for CHCs in the initial emergency COVID-19 response bill (Public Law No. 116-123), and $1.32 billion for CHCs in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Public Law No. 116-136), as well as $600 million dedicated to help CHCs with COVID-19 testing. But CHCs, like many health providers, are facing financial hardship due to COVID-19, with increased expenses such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning costs and decreased revenue from fewer elective visits.
Reed penned a bipartisan letter to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education with 41 colleagues, noting that CHCs face a $7.6 billion budget shortfall in the coming months, and calling for additional funding for CHCs to be included in the next coronavirus relief package to support their frontline health care services.
“We write to express our support for additional emergency funding for community health centers in the next COVID-19 relief package. Community health centers are vital to our response to the coronavirus pandemic and need appropriate funding to continue their front-line health care work,” wrote the 42 Senators. “Community health centers provide affordable care to more than 29 million patients, including 385,000 veterans and 8.7 million children nationwide. These centers play a critical role in responding to the pandemic, offering coronavirus testing, primary care, dental care, behavioral health care, and other services to our nation's most vulnerable patien
America’s 1,400 Community Health Centers (CHCs) are a network of federally designated non-profit health care providers that offer high quality, affordable medical, dental, and behavioral health services to their patients in underserved communities across the country. Nationally, CHCs generate $24 billion in savings annually for the health care system, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). Their patients disproportionately include communities of color, with African Americans making up more than one in five CHC patients.
Rhode Island is home to ten affiliated community health centers that served over 171,200 residents in 2017, according to the Rhode Island Health Center Association (RIHCA). Rhode Island’s community health centers offer clinics and patient services at 33 locations around the state including urban, rural, suburban, and island areas.
In the letter, the Senators note: “Over 2,000 centers have already had to close their doors, and many more remain concerned about how long they will be able to stay open.”
“Minority communities and vulnerable populations are among the hardest hit by COVID-19,” said Senator Reed. “As more Americans lose jobs, income, and health insurance, it is imperative that CHCs are able to survive and provide affordable, effective care to medically underserved communities. This is one of the smartest, most-cost effective investments Congress can make. And the federal government must also take action to reduce barriers to health care and address structural inequalities in our health care system.”
Senator Reed has worked to ensure Rhode Island’s CHCs have the federal support they need to serve patients and combat COVID-19. Reed recently delivered $7.75 million in CARES Act funding for CHCs across the state, including:
• Blackstone Valley Community Health Care, Pawtucket: $946,218
• Comprehensive Community Action, Cranston: $859,393
• East Bay Community Action Program, Newport: $746,749
• Northwest Community Health Care, Pascoag: $843,072
• Providence Community Health Centers, Providence: $1,554,173
• Thundermist Health Center, Woonsocket: $1,492,577
• Tri-County Community Action Agency, Johnston: $679,812
• Wood River Health Services, Hope Valley: $669,961
And to help Rhode Island expand COVID-19 testing capacity, Reed secured another $3.65 million for testing-specific funding for RI CHCs:
• Providence Community Health Centers: $1,007,419
• Thundermist Health Center: $869,404
• Blackstone Valley Community Health Care: $418,324
• Northwest Community Health Centers: $346,744
• Comprehensive Community Action: $340,609
• East Bay Community Action Program: $257,299
• Tri-County Community Action Agency: $219,844
• Wood River Health Services: $199,069
Full text of the letter follows:
Dear Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray:
We write to express our support for additional emergency funding for community health centers in the next COVID-19 relief package. Community health centers are vital to our response to the coronavirus pandemic and need appropriate funding to continue their front-line health care work.
Community health centers provide affordable care to more than 29 million patients, including 385,000 veterans and 8.7 million children nationwide. These centers play a critical role in responding to the pandemic, offering coronavirus testing, primary care, dental care, behavioral health care, and other services to our nation’s most vulnerable patients. This care helps keep individuals out of emergency rooms, where beds are currently in particularly high need. It also helps manage chronic conditions that may exacerbate the symptoms of COVID-19.
Over the next six months, community health centers will see 34 million fewer appointments as Americans cancel primary and preventive care appointments or delay non-essential care. Health centers are anticipating $7.6 billion in lost revenue and 105,000 lost jobs. Over 2,000 centers have already had to close their doors and many more remain concerned about how long they will be able to stay open.
We appreciate the additional $2 billion in emergency funding provided to community health centers in recent COVID-19 response and relief packages, including $600 million dedicated to testing. However, despite this funding, health centers are still worried about how to keep their doors open to serve their patients. These valuable providers will continue to lose more revenue as the pandemic continues. Additional funding is critical for these centers to continue providing quality, affordable health care and front-line response efforts.
We look forward to working with you to reach a bipartisan agreement to enact legislation and ensure community health centers can continue to provide high quality and affordable care to those in need.