By: Asha Cesar, State Affairs Intern
A new NACHC report finds that over half the states plan to decrease direct funding to community health centers bringing state funding in SFY2012 to $335 million–its lowest level in seven years. Health centers in six states will face a decline of greater than 30%. Many health care advocates are concerned that habitual state budget cuts will decrease health center capacity to meet the growing demand. As states continue to debate their fiscal priorities during the continuing budget crisis, it will be up to health center advocates to educate policymakers about the impact these cuts have on their centers and communities.
Federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) provide care to all regardless of ability to pay. With the rise of uninsured patients—largely due to the current economic downturn— health centers will endure many challenges managing their patient load and operational activities in the face of state budget cuts.
Impacts of State Budget Cuts:
The report also reveals that some health centers in states that cut funding were forced to close clinics, institute hiring freezes and even prevent clinics from applying for FQHC status. All of these will create barriers to care and have detrimental effects on the communities they serve.
In 2010, approximately 16 million visits were for patients with chronic disease – including depression and other behavioral health conditions – who depend on health centers for their care. It is a major concern that a number of states indicated their health centers had to eliminate disease management or preventative care programs in addition to reducing overall operating costs. While it is not surprising that people with chronic conditions generally require more health care services over a longer period of time, with the elimination of essential programs such as disease management, emergency room visits and hospitalizations (which cost the system more) may increase in those specific areas.
Thankfully, health care is still a priority.
It’s not all bad news. Despite hard times and the uncertainty that lies ahead for many health programs, six states will increase funding for health centers in SFY2012. Wyoming will provide $1 million to health centers for the first time!
What can health centers do?
As many states are gearing up for the 2012 legislative session, health center advocates must continue to educate policymakers about health centers and why they are a good investment in the health of your state.