Community health centers have been opening more and more doors across the country since the 1960s. To date, there are nearly 1,400 centers nationwide serving more than 28 million patients.
Community health centers help patients access affordable health care. Centers are able to do this through federal funds, mostly from the Community Health Centers Fund which was created through the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
The Community Health Centers Fund is approved by Congress in increments. In 2017, they extended funding for an additional two years, which expired in September. When Congress met to decide to extend, discontinue or delay the funding, they decided to pass a continuing resolution to provide month-to-month funding for centers and delay a decision until November 21st.
Congress will now meet Thursday to either extend the funding, discontinue it or delay the decision. Ross Brooks, the CEO of Mountain Family Health Centers, said Congress will most likely pass another continuing resolution and make a decision in December or early 2020.
Brooks said this uncertainty about funding causes unnecessary stress for community health center budgets, staff and patients.
“When we’re in an environment where we have growing uninsured and people in our communities really struggling to afford access to healthcare at all, it just does not give us the certainty to try and do our jobs well,” he said.
Brooks said the funding makes up nearly 20% of Mountain Family Health Center’s $20 million budget.
He said he does not believe Congress would discontinue the funding entirely, but if they do, it could mean life or death for community health centers nationwide.