Health Center Funding Cliff
Congress returned from August recess on September 9, leaving just three weeks to reauthorize the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF), National Health Service Corps (NHSC), and Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) programs before funding expires on September 30.Congress returned from August recess on September 9, leaving just three weeks to reauthorize the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF), National Health Service Corps (NHSC), and Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) programs before funding expires on September 30.
Health centers receive federal funding to support these key programs through $1.63 billion in annual discretionary appropriations and $4 billion in mandatory funding. Mandatory funding, which accounts for 70% of federal funding for health centers, needs to be reauthorized by September 30. Although health centers generally have broad bipartisan support, health center funding is mired in a debate over other proposals attached to health center funding legislation, including surprise billing.
Tennessee's health centers rely on federal funding to provide high-quality, comprehensive primary care to patients, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. Federal funding allows health centers to provide integrated care, including medical, dental, behavioral health and substance use treatment, and pharmaceutical services. Federal funding is key to expanding access by allowing health centers to open additional sites, hire new providers, or expand services.
If Congress doesn't reach a deal by the end of the month, Tennessee's health centers stand to lose an estimated $60 million in federal funding, which would drastically curtail their ability to serve as core employers and health care providers in their communities. Such dramatic cuts would result in an estimated 21% of their 422,000 patients losing care as health centers are forced to implement cost saving measures.
According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, health centers across the country are already considering taking action in anticipation of another funding cliff. More than 60% of health centers are considering a hiring freeze, and 40% are considering laying off staff or reducing staff hours. Most health centers (52%) are considering tapping into reserve funding. About 35% of health centers are considering reducing their operating hours, and 26% have thought about closing at least one health center site.
Legislation to extend mandatory health center funding passed out of committee in both the House and Senate and may come up for votes before both chambers. The house bill, H.R. 2328, would provide four years of level funding for health centers, while the Senate version, S. 1895, would provide five years of level funding.
Learn how you can take action to support community health centers in Tennessee and ensure they can continue to care for our friends and neighbors across the state.