WASHINGTON— Leaders from three of the nation’s largest Community Health Centers (CHCs) – Sun River Health, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, and Cumberland Family Medical Centers – along with Advocates for Community Health (ACH) met with members of U.S. Congress last week to urge a longer-term funding solution that will ensure that health centers have the resources they need to address critical needs in their communities. The legislative fly-in was hosted by ACH as federal funding for the mandatory Community Health Center Fund expires on January 19, 2024, threatening more than 70% of funding CHCs receive to operate.
“Unless Congress acts now, more than 31 million patients will be at risk,” said ACH Senior Vice President of Policy & Government Affairs Stephanie Krenrich. “The Community Health Center Fund has not had an increase since FY 2019 and this is already having detrimental effects in health center operations.” She added, “We’ve been advocating for long-term, sustainable funding since May 2022 because we know that financial uncertainty is detrimental to health centers’ ability to respond to the growing and complex needs of the patients they serve, and they need Congress to act now.”
In December, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Lower Costs, More Transparency Act (H.R. 5378) which contains a 10% increase for the Community Health Center Trust Fund to $4.4 billion a year for a 2-year period, through the end of 2025. This bill is now in the Senate for consideration. The Senate has also addressed the Reauthorization of the Community Health Center Fund, passing the Bipartisan Primary Care and Health Workforce Act out of the HELP Committee. This legislation funds the CHC Fund at $5.8 billion a year for three years.
“Thank you to Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) for taking the time to hear issues impacting Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic’s ability to provide comprehensive health care to more than 198,000 patients annually in the Pacific Northwest,” said Christy Trotter, CEO for Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic. “Inflation and the shortage of health care workers continue to impact health centers. We have seen the average hourly wage grow 30% since pre pandemic. Now, more than ever, sustainable funding for health centers is essential to fulfilling our mission and serving our communities.”
As the nation’s largest primary care network, FQHCs serve historically marginalized communities and provide comprehensive, culturally competent, integrated care to over 31 million people. They act as a healthcare home for anyone who walks through their doors, regardless of ability to pay or insurance status.
At this time of unprecedented financial challenges for health centers, our message has been clear: health centers are lifesaving, hyper-local healthcare hubs that impact every corner of our country and the patients they serve need Congress to protect this funding and make historic investments in this proven program.
About Advocates for Community Health
Advocates for Community Health (ACH) is a membership organization for federally qualified health centers that strives to advance the delivery of health care to underserved populations and to achieve health equity for patients and communities in need. We are committed to working collaboratively to advance well-defined and forward-thinking policies at the national level. By leveraging the wisdom, agility, and innovation of our members, ACH brings bold leadership to drive change in the American healthcare system. To learn more, visit advocatesforcommunityhealth.org.