By Micah Clemens
The second General Session of CHI 2011 focused on the legislative future for Federally Qualified Health Centers.
Dr. Gary Wiltz kicked things off — he’s the new chair elect for NACHC and the CEO of Teche Action Clinic in Franklin, LA. Dr. Wiltz’s welcoming message was simple: the best way to solve local problems is to use local solutions. Community Health Centers are the local solution for over 20 million Americans who want quality, affordable primary health care.
Community Health Centers are just common sense
Next economist Jared Bernstein painted a compelling picture of how health centers fit into the larger federal budget debate. Dr. Bernstein is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), and talked about the realities of what deep budget cuts mean for safety net programs like Community Health Centers and Medicaid. Dr. Bernstein was an economic advisor to Vice President Biden and was on President Obama’s economic team before he joined CBPP. He said that federal support for health centers is – from an economic standpoint – just common sense. But the problem that the whole country faces is that common sense is on the run in Washington. It’s up to the advocates to fight for a resurgence of common sense.
To win this fight, we must look at how we’ve won in the past
NACHC President and CEO Tom Van Coverden gave an in-depth update about what’s at stake for America’s Health Centers in this political climate. He explained that we need to review our history to understand what we now face in this legislative climate. If we recognize what we’ve accomplished over the past 46+ years, we understand we know how to play and win this game. Even in difficult times.
Tom explained that we’ve won these battles before, and we’ll win them again, but the greatest danger we currently face is apathy and inaction. He then repeated something the late U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), once told him: “I love health centers and I love NACHC, but at the end of the day, everyone’s pounding the door down, and I need to hear from the people at home.” This was the charge of the day, to make sure that all health center advocates make their voices known to their elected representatives over the next few months. The future of Community Health Centers depends on it.