Health Center Federal Policy

Health Center Highlights: House Energy and Commerce Committee Hearing

By Melissa Cairo, NACHC Federal Affairs Intern

On June 23, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health held the hearing Examining the Extension of Safety Net Health Programs. In this hearing, the subcommittee focused on two specific programs: the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Community Health Center Fund. Both CHIP and the Health Center Fund face funding cliffs and need funding reauthorization by the end of the fiscal year (September 30).

NACHC Treasurer Mike Holmes, CEO of Scenic River Health Services in Northern Minnesota, testified on behalf of health centers.

Below is a collection of quotes from Representatives on the committee that highlight health centers in districts, in states and across the country. View a video of the hearing:

Member Quotes

“We recognize that CHIP and Community Health Centers play a significant role in the nation’s safety net for millions of Americans, for millions of American children, and pregnant women who are generally low to moderate income, and millions of individuals who may be medically underserved or face other barriers to care. Individuals and families served by these programs, are not just program enrollees, they are our neighbors, they are our friends.

In many parts of rural eastern Oregon, a health center can serve as the main primary care provider in the communities that faces a shortage of private practice doctors, and in three of my counties, there are no physicians and there are no hospitals…Our health centers partner with local providers, health systems, and the patient community through coordinated care organizations that work to provide comprehensive services focusing on prevention, chronic disease management, and locally controlled patient centered care.”

–Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), Chairman of the Full Energy and Commerce Committee

“The Community Health Center Fund plays an important role at supplementing services that federally qualified health centers are able to deliver to underserved communities by providing care to all Americans regardless of income, regardless of ability to pay. Additionally the Community Health Center Fund provides resources for the National Health Service Corps, which actually provides scholarships and loans, and loan repayment opportunities to new doctors to serve in medically underserved areas. This program has proven effective at placing providers who are young and energetic and willing to work hard in some of the most underserved and medically challenging areas.”

–Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), Chairman of the Health Subcommittee

“The Community Health Center Fund provides 70% of the funding for the health center program which accounts for 20% of revenue for community health centers. According to estimates, failure to reauthorize this funding will result in the closing of approximately 2800 health centers and 50,000 clinicians and other staff losing their jobs, and most importantly 9 million patients losing access to care. So I strongly believe in a swift reauthorization of this funding for community health centers.”

–Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Ranking Member, Full Energy and Commerce Committee

“CHIP and federally qualified health centers are critical components of our health care safety net, funding for both expires at the end of this fiscal year and timely reauthorization is utterly critical. I’ve long championed community health centers and want to see the Community Health Center Fund extended for [5 years].”

–Rep. Gene Green (D-TX), Ranking Member, Health Subcommittee

“We as a country, and as a community invest in care through CHIP, through Medicaid, through a ban on lifetime caps, and through a strong community health center program.”

–Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA)

“The reliance on community health centers is very, very important to our health safety net.”

–Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY)

In response to an answer from Mike Holmes:

“I think that this is an issue that deserves a great deal of attention and I’m not one who wants to make this a partisan issue. I think that it’s a very difficult issue and, we have to examine it, in my judgement, based upon the facts, that we want to cover as many Americans as possible.”

–Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ)

“What we’ve found is that people are much more likely to go to the clinic, the community center… particularly in rural areas around mental health services [even though mental health] still has a certain stigma, if they can just step into another room of the clinic [where] nobody knows if they are getting their foot looked at for toe fungus or getting mental health evaluation”

–Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA)

“I know that in my district alone we’ve got 6 FQHCs and they serve over 55,000 patients and they are very, very important.”

–Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA)

“My family foundation has bought a building in my hometown and donated it to the Hope clinic, which is a community health center for Ellis County, and the Nell Barton annex is providing services for low-income citizens in Texas and is doing very, very well, so we are strong supporters of the community health centers and SCHIP.”

–Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX)

“Let me say at the outset that I strongly support CHIP and our nation’s community health centers. I was very proud to support the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act back in 2015 and it most recently extended those two vital programs.”

–Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY)