Concerns about the primary care funding cliff are percolating on Capitol Hill, where U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) has called for a bipartisan efforts to work toward a solution for the funding shortfall.
“Millions of Americans could lose access to community health centers,” Sanders said in a press release. “Members of Congress will need to work in a bipartisan way to extend funding if we are to continue to provide Americans with the greatest health care needs a reliable source of primary care,” Sanders said. “Without access to affordable primary care, people put off going to a doctor until they get so sick they end up in expensive hospital emergency rooms. In some cases they simply wait too long and their illness becomes terminal.”
The chairman of a Senate subcommittee on primary care, Sanders has introduced legislation to avert the funding cliff. His bill would authorize $25 billion over five years in new funding for health centers. Another $4.9 billion would be set aside from 2016 to 2020 for the National Health Service Corps to provide scholarships and loan repayments for health care professionals committed to practice in underserved areas. The measure also would increase the number of health centers providing residency training through the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program.
Sanders’ efforts caught the attention of the local newspaper, Bennington Banner, which ran an editorial in support. “We agree with Sen. Sanders. The time to act is now… Successful navigation of this Primary Care Fiscal Cliff will only get more difficult as the end of fiscal 2015 nears. The time to sound the trumpet is now.”
Of course, health center leaders are also making a case to newspapers and describing what funding cliff really means in human terms:
“The good news is that today over 20,000 more Delawareans have health insurance as compared to just a year ago, some of whom are insured for the very first time in their lives,” writes Lolita Lopez, President and CEO of Westside Family Healthcare in Wilmington, DE, in an op-ed published last month. “Yet, although critically important, health insurance coverage alone does not guarantee access to care. Even more important, the progress we have made so far to improve access is now threatened here in Delaware, as well as in communities across the nation.”
Stay tuned to this blog for more updates about health centers and the funding cliff.