From the CEO's Desk
Kathy Wood-Dobbins, CEO
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Section: Spotlight Articles, October/November 2017

For decades, health centers have drawn bipartisan support from U.S. presidents and lawmakers because of our record of success. Yet, such broad support may not be enough to ensure we can continue to serve people who need affordable primary care in the future. Right now, Tennessee health centers are threatened with a severe loss in funding, as are other health centers in nearly 10,000 communities nationwide. 

The deadline for Congress to reauthorize Community Health Center funding was September 30, 2017. Health centers are currently being funded with reserve funding; this funding will soon run out and this will have a direct and immediate impact on the health of our communities. If health center funding is not reauthorized, funding will be reduced by approximately 70 percent. The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has projected that the impact of such a reduction would be dramatic: the closure of 2,800 health center locations nationwide, the elimination of more than 50,000 jobs, and a loss of access to care for more than 9 million patients. Tennessee’s health centers stand to lose approximately $52.8 million in funding, which would drastically reduce the number of patients that can be served and the number of people that can be employed.

Community Health Centers bring a unique and important perspective to the national conversation on health care. Tennessee’s health centers are part of a nationwide network that started more than 50 years ago to provide quality primary care in places where doctors and services were scarce or non-existent.

Nationwide, health centers have since grown to serve as the “family doctor” to more than 27 million people in communities all over the country – approximately one in 12 Americans. Tennessee’s health centers provided care to more than 396,000 of our state’s residents in 2016. We have saved countless lives by providing affordable access to primary care, and we have helped reduce the incidence of chronic disease in the most challenging rural and urban communities all across our state. 

At a health center, patients have a more affordable option for preventive care than a hospital emergency room. Health centers nationally generate $24 billion in health care cost savings, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). We are also innovators, working with community partners to respond to public health crises such as the opioid epidemic.

There is little doubt that health centers have contributed significantly to cost savings for taxpayers in Tennessee and throughout the U.S. Yet, it is not sufficient to describe us as just another health care program. We are problem-solvers who look beyond the medical charts – not only to prevent illness, but also to address the factors that actually cause poor health, such as homelessness, lack of nutrition, stress, or unemployment and drug addiction.

We encourage Senators Alexander and Corker and all Tennessee Members of Congress to support bi-partisan legislation to extend Community Health Center funding; Tennessee’s health depends on it.
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