Approximately two weeks ago, the President released his budget for FY 2013, marking the official start of the FY2013 appropriations process. [Read NACHC’s statement on the President’s proposal here]. Now it is Congress’ turn to get down to business.
The House Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee which funds the Health Centers program has announced that it is now accepting programmatic requests from all Members of the House. The Subcommittee’s deadline is set for March 20th. However, many individual House offices are setting internal office deadlines well before that, so the time to begin the conversation with Hill offices about supporting health centers via a programmatic request is now.
The Health Center Request
For FY2013, Health Centers are asking for $3.1 billion in total program funding for FY 2013. Within this total, health centers are asking for $2.8 billion in base discretionary funding for the Health Centers Program. Total program funding will:
- Allow existing Health Centers to continue to provide cost-effective, high quality care and experience no disruption of current services; and
- Expand access to 2.5 million new patients without access to a health center today.
What You Can Do
Health center advocates should begin their outreach now- asking their Member of Congress to consider submitting a programmatic request for the Health Centers program. Advocates should let Member offices know that while a group sign-on letter is forthcoming, we are asking them right now to commit to submitting a personal programmatic request.
Why It Matters
As most health center advocates know, appropriations are the bread and butter of what health centers do. The annual level of funding for the Health Centers program determines whether we can do more for the patients and communities health centers serve and expand to new communities who currently have no access to primary care, or whether we will just barely be able to keep doing the same amount in the face of significant and growing need.
There are currently over 1800 pending applications for health center expansion- both in communities that currently have no health center and in those where existing health centers face overwhelming demand for their services. If you are a health center advocate, it is a virtual certainty that your health center has one of these applications pending. What is the identified and unmet in need in YOUR community? Now is the time to find out and then ask your Member of Congress to work to make sure that your health center can address that need in their backyard.