By: Anne Morris and Shana McClendon
When we last blogged about the Teaching Health Centers (THC) program, the Energy and Commerce Committee had completed its consideration of H.R. 1216, legislation proposed by Congressman Brett Guthrie (R-KY), which rescinds the unobligated portion of the $230 million in total mandatory funding available to support Teaching Health Centers (THCs) for FY2011-FY2015 and converts the program to an authorization of appropriations. As you’ll recall, this legislation does not eliminate any of the mandatory funding from the “Health Center Fund” which provided funding for Section 330 health center operations and capital funding. Nevertheless, should this bill become law, the 11 grantees (9 of which are health centers) will not have guaranteed funding from the THC program. Instead, their future funding would be at risk since the program would be subject to the annual appropriations process in an already-challenging budgetary climate.
Tomorrow (Tuesday), the House of Representatives is expected to take up H.R. 1216 for a vote. Unfortunately, the measure will likely pass the House due to the broader politics surrounding the Affordable Care Act – and not the policy merits of the THC program. In fact, the goal of training more primary care physicians has received explicit and bipartisan support in the Energy and Commerce Committee. However and thankfully, there is no indication as of this writing that the Senate plans to take up this measure.
NACHC opposes H.R. 1216 because it would eliminate dedicated funding to support primary care residency training at health centers and other community-based entities at a time where sustained investment in our primary care workforce is needed.