Health Reform Vital to Community Health Centers and their Patients

The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Wednesday, January 19 on a bill that would repeal the health care reform law.  The Affordable Care Act is extremely important to Community Health Centers and the patients they serve.  It continues the bipartisan expansion of Health Centers that began a decade ago which would ensure that significantly more individuals living in medically underserved areas will have access to high-quality, affordable, cost-effective, and patient-centered primary and preventive care provided through the Health Center model.

Through the new dedicated Community Health Center Fund, $11 billion in funding will be available for expansion of the Health Centers Program.  This funding will allow the nationwide network of Community Health Centers to double their capacity to serve 20 million new patients over the next five years.  Michigan Health Centers are poised to be the health care home for approximately 1.2 million state residents in underserved communities by 2015.  A recent independent report indicates that savings to the nation’s health care system from expansion of the cost-effective Health Center model will total $122 billion over five years, with $55 million of that in the form of Medicaid savings.

Health care reform also expands Medicaid eligibility, ensuring that all U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($29,300 for a family of four) will be able to access Medicaid.  Medicaid coverage will improve access to care for an estimated 4 million previously-uninsured Health Center patients, especially access to specialty care that had been difficult or impossible to reach, as well as for another 7.5 million new patients by 2015.

In addition to the Medicaid expansion, health care reform will ensure that as many as 25 million currently uninsured Americans will be able to purchase private health insurance through new state-based “Exchanges.”  Health Centers will be part of the provider networks in the new Exchanges and have payment protections to ensure that Health Centers do not lose revenue when they treat patients with private insurance offered through the Exchanges.

In October 2010, three Michigan Health Centers — Cherry Street Health Services, Center for Family Health, and Family Health Center, Inc. — were awarded a total of $18,702,447 in funding to address construction and renovation needs.  This will enable these Health Centers to better serve existing and new patients within the Grand Rapids, Jackson, and Kalamazoo communities.  Should the health reform law be repealed, construction and renovation funding for these Health Centers and those in 150 communities across the country would be jeopardized.

Recently, 24 Michigan organizations applied for grants to open new Community Health Center sites to meet unmet health access needs in their communities.  These grants, funded under the health reform law, will enable Michigan Health Centers to bring comprehensive primary and preventive care to thousands of the state’s residents in new locations where access to affordable care is currently scarce.

Your U.S. Representative needs to know how important health reform is to his/her constituents.  By opposing the repeal of health reform, your Representative will be supporting Community Health Centers that help their constituents and their communities stay healthy.  Click here to contact your U.S. Representative.  It takes just a few minutes to make your voice heard.

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