Health Center Federal Policy, Uncategorized

Health Centers and the Politics of Health Care Reform

An Important Message from Dan Hawkins

First let me extend my best wishes for the year ahead. 2011 is certain to be a year of excitement and energy as we work to meet our goals for growth and expansion to serve those in need across the nation.

Already this year there has been a great deal of speculation and commentary on how our legislators will shape and reshape policy in the coming months. While the political landscape may have changed in Washington, the work and mission of health centers remains the same.

We should all welcome the new and returning elected Members of the 112th Congress.  We must all remember that every one of them is giving their time and energy to help our country be a better nation and they all deserve our appreciation.

And, we should remember that the work of improving our nation and its health is not a sprint, it is a marathon.  We must make progress together, toward a better living environment for us all.

Now to the point of this message…there has been a lot of talk about repealing the Health Care Reform bill that was enacted last year, and yes, health centers strongly supported that effort.  I just wanted to take a minute to tell you how we see things here at NACHC.

Let me be very clear, health center support for the Health Care Reform bill was an easy call to make.  Every day health centers serve millions of people without insurance.  This makes it harder for them to receive regular care anywhere else, and it also makes specialty care that much harder, if not impossible, to find.  The uninsured are sicker and poorer than almost everyone else in this country, and something had to be done.  The insurance expansions in the law are a major step forward, improving health access for millions of health center patients and others.  In addition, the legislation helped strengthen and expand health centers and our cost-effective, high-quality model of care directly.   The law provides direct funding to expand existing centers, establish new centers, and also includes payment protections in future insurance expansions that will ensure health centers survival in a newly reformed marketplace.  Thus, supporting the bill was a no-brainer for NACHC.

What is less obvious is how to respond to the effort to repeal the law.  For this, I’ll give you a political answer and also a practical answer. First, the practical answer – the repeal effort won’t pass the Senate, and most assuredly would not be signed by the President, so it won’t be repealed this year or next.  So no one needs to hit the panic button just yet.

The most pressing question is how to respond on the political side of the discussion.  The answer is that we need to work with everyone in a position of power to help the populations we serve live a better life.  We can’t afford to mischaracterize anyone’s intent until we make an effort to work with them directly.  We also need to recognize that many long-time health center supporters may support repeal due to other provisions in the law – not the health center provisions specifically.

We have a lot of work to do, and the health reform law is a strong step in the right direction.  We will defend it and also work to take the next steps together to expand access to care for everyone.  If that’s with a Republican majority in the House, or a Democratic majority in the Senate, or both, we need to recognize that expanding access is a marathon…and one we can’t win alone.

Click here if you’d like to send your Representative a message about repeal.


  1. Please continue to work positively and together on the healthcare reform issues. Perhaps some don’t have to choose some months as to whether to buy medications the Dr has prescribed or paying the mortgage/rent or buying groceries; unfortunately my family does. My husband and I both work, but since things became so bad we don’t make the same wages we once did and we are barely making it as it is and struggling to hole onto our home.
    My husband has such severe asthma he must take his medications or we end up in the Emergency Room. I cannot tell you how painful it is to see his face and know he is feeling bad or guilty that he needs medication and we buy that of course instead of paying a bill.
    Please know that we are hardly the only ones suffering with these issues, we are many. Please do the right thing and work hard for us all to make health reform work for everyone.
    Best wishes to you and yours for a better New Year.
    Shirley Flowers

    1. Hi Shirley, thank you for your response! Would you mind getting in contact with me? I’m interested in talking with you further about your story. You can e-mail me at Thanks!

  2. The strength of America’s Health Centers comes from what each Health Center does at home, with the Board, the patients and staff, and various stakeholders, including the newly elected Representatives and Senators. Those new ones must be educated to see the linchpin role Health Center play in lowering the rate of health care costs. We have succeded in delivering this message locally in the past and I am confident of our continued success with the able PCAs and Health Centers doing the work locally and NACHC showing the way nationally.

  3. To Whom It May Concern at NACHC::

    Clearly, all of the community health centers in our nation are supportive of maintaining and strengthen the Health Care Reform Bill. This health reform bill has been in the making for over 75 years since the adoption of the Social Security Act in 1936. Efforts to develop a national health policy have been made by President Roosevelt, President Truman, President Nixon, President Carter, President Clinton, and finally after all of this trauma and political gymnastics, we succeeded under President Obama.

    Of course this Reform Billl was extremely watered down from what many of us in the community health culture wanted such as a “Single Payer Bill” and coverage for all of the immigrant population, and stronger protection for our public health hospitals and our non-profit community health programs. Nonetheless, we have a national reform bill, finally, that we can all strengthen and built on. What a marvelous accomplishment that we should all applaud and support.

    To have the GOP legislatures, and some of the Blue Dog Democrats, at this stage of the game take steps to cancel and reverse this Health Care Reform Billl, after the struggles that we have gone through over the past decades is not only political insanity it is pure and unadulterated political evil.

    The US is the only developed industrial nation in the world that did not have a meaningful national health policy (though we expend more on health care than any nation in the world and have some of the worse diseases indices and infant mortality rates than most developed countries). We must fight these GOP devils with our last breath not just in sending them e-mails and angst letters but in beating on their doors and meeting and educating their community constituents.

    The game plan that NACHC should take is to identify every congressman that wants to reverse the Health Care Reform Billl and identify the community clinics in their target area and utilize this as the beginning platform to vociferously flush these deadheaded legislatures out and threaten him or her with their political future. There should be planned marches, media events, organized strategic activity, in each of these legislative communities to educate their community (families, schools, employers, seniors, disabled, veterans, low income, middle income, high income, families and individuals) on how and why Health Care Reform is good for everyone. We should squeeze every once of energy from each of these individual communities, using community health centers and their partners, as the primary platform.

    In our San Francisco Bay Area, everyone of our 12 or so congresspersons are strong advocates of the Health Care Reform Bill and there is little to gain to send them e-mails or telephone calls to to solicit their support, though we will still do that. But some of our California Congressional neighbors to the south and in the central valley, particularly the GOP and Blue Dog Democrats, want to modify, reverse, or totally kill the Health Care Reform Billl. These individuals should be the target of our political venom. The community health centers and their constituents should plan and organize political rally’s and invite the surrounding community health centers and their partners in their region to these events to beat up on these mischievous and offensive congresspersons and in fact, embarrass them for the negative positions that they are taking on trying to kill Health Care Reform. NACHC and their state, regional, and local community health partnerships should take the lead. If we don’t, many of us are afraid that Health Care Reform may be lost.

    We will be waiting for NACHC to strike the first blow in this political battle.


    Roy Jimenez,
    Foothill Community Health Center
    2680 S. White Road – #170
    San Jose, CA 95148
    (408) 729-4290

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