By: Colleen Boselli
As the economic downturn continues to impact state budgets to the tune of $121 billion in shortfalls nationwide, state houses across the country have been forced to make some very tough decisions. A majority of states chose to cut funding for public health programs and services, including community health centers (CHCs). A recent NACHC report, “Entering the Era of Reform: The Future of State Funding for Health Centers” finds that state funding for health centers has been decreasing steadily since 2008 and is now at a five year low of $386 million. This total is below 2006 levels and is a 42% decrease from a national high in 2008. At the same time that states are cutting, health centers are seeing an even greater number of uninsured patients come through their doors seeking care. Nationally, the total number of uninsured patients at CHCs has increased by 36% from 2004-2009. This means that health centers are caring for over one third more uninsured patients but are still being funded by their states at 2006 levels.
The NACHC report emphasizes the increasing importance of state support for community health centers. With the largest-ever expansion of CHCs on the horizon thanks to the federal health care reform law, it is vital for states to invest NOW to build on the CHC infrastructure so centers can successfully reach even more underserved communities. Health centers have consistently proven that they are worth the investment and continue to save the health care system and Medicaid money by providing primary preventative health care services. Now, more than ever, health centers need state support in order to successfully serve 40 million patients by 2015.