WASHINGTON – Advocates for Community Health (ACH)—a member-led organization driving bold federal policies on behalf of community health centers—hosted its second Annual Member Meeting in Washington, DC from February 7 through February 9. The event convened CEOs and senior leadership from many of the nation’s largest federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) to hear from high-ranking officials in Washington, share best practices, and advocate on Capitol Hill for legislative solutions to their most pressing challenges.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) and long-time health center champion, addressed the group on Wednesday. Senator Sanders applauded the impact FQHCs make in the underserved communities where they provide critical primary care and vowed that expanding the Health Center Program would be one of his major initiatives in the committee this year.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) with (from left to right): Vernita Todd (San Ysidro Health), Anne Nolon (Sun River Health), Amanda Pears Kelly (Advocates for Community Health), Kerry Hydash (Family HealthCare Network), Eddie Chan (North East Medical Services), Dr. Gloria Amador Fernandez (Salud Integral en la Montana), and Tess Kuenning (Bi-State Primary Care Association)
FQHC leaders also heard from Associate Administrator of the Bureau of Primary Health Care at the Health Services and Resources Administration (HRSA) James Macrae, Director for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of Minority Health Dr. LaShawn McIver, Deputy Director of the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy at HRSA Michael Fallahkhair, Special Assistant to the President for Public Health and Disparities Catherine Oakar, and Associate Administrator for Health Workforce at HRSA and Director of the National Health Service Corps Dr. Luis Padilla.
In addition to intimate discussions with these key stakeholders throughout the Administration, attendees had the opportunity to dive deeper into some of the more nuanced policy issues facing health centers today. Experts on prescription drug pricing policy and regulation delved into the outlook for the 340B program in the 118th Congress, representatives from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) and the Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy discussed CMMI’s efforts to expand safety net participation in their models for value based care, and health policy reporters from Axios, POLITICO, Bloomberg Government, and The Washington Post shared insights on what they’re covering in the year ahead.
To close out the Meeting, ACH members went to Capitol Hill to visit their representatives in Congress. Advocates had three immediate asks for their Congressional offices:
- Expand FQHC Funding: ACH is urging Congress to make historic investments in the Health Center Program with $2.88 billion in discretionary funding and $6.12 billion in mandatory funding in FY24 through the Community Health Center Fund. Additionally, we are asking for workforce investments of $950 million to the National Health Service Corps in FY 24 and $1.1 billion over three years for Teaching Health Centers.
- Protect 340B: Help ACH advance our “340C” proposal, to protect the ability of community health centers to utilize the 340B program as it was intended—to reinvest savings into innovative care to patients in need.
- Co-sponsor the Health Center Community Transformation Hub Act: Enable community health centers to do what they do best and serve as a “hub” among local organizations to more effectively address patient needs and the social determinants of health they face.
“This is a year when the Health Center Program is facing challenges from all angles—a looming funding cliff, an overburdened and under-resourced workforce, and threats to the 340B program,” said Advocates for Community Health CEO Amanda Pears Kelly. “It is deeply encouraging to hear federal leaders throughout Washington voice support for these hyper-local health care hubs and the millions of patients they serve. FQHCs have consistently had bipartisan champions on Capitol Hill, and we look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to protect and strengthen this vital network.”
To learn more about Advocates for Community Health, its members, and their policy priorities, visit www.advocatesforcommunityhealth.org.
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About Advocates for Community Health
Advocates for Community Health 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 about membership and partnership opportunities, visit www.advocatesforcommunityhealth.org or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.