In 1965, the Community Health Center (CHC) Program began with two clinics. Over 52 years, this number has increased to nearly 1,400 health centers, with 10,400 delivery sites. Obviously, with that number of delivery locations, health centers have a vast impact on the health of our nation’s communities.
CHCs have seen tremendous growth over the past fifteen years, with a 152% increase in patient volume from 2001 – 2016. According to HRSA, nearly 26 million people were served at health center locations in 2016. That means about 1 in 12 people rely on a HRSA-funded health center for care.
As patient volumes increased, the need for CHC funding significantly increased. To address this funding need, a dedicated source of funding, the Community Health Center Fund, was established in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The CHC Fund currently contributes $3.6 billion of the $5.1 billion CHC funding annually. In 2015, the CHC Fund was extended for a period of two years and is slated to end September 30, 2017. Unless Congress acts now, on October 1st, CHCs will lose 70% of the federal funding that supports services across our country.
Bipartisan legislation, the Community Health Investment, Modernization and Excellence (CHIME) Act of 2017, was introduced to Congress on September 13, 2017, and would extend CHC support for an additional five years. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that without extending support, 2,800 health center delivery sites would close, more than 50,000 provider and staff positions in economically hard-hit communities would be eliminated, and there would be a loss of access to care for 9 million patients. This would be devastating for the communities that depend on CHCs.
Many health center advocacy groups have been working to raise awareness and have been requesting people to phone their members of Congress to show support for CHCs. If you want to help, click here to visit a website that will provide you with more information.
CHCs can utilize this tool, which is an Excel sheet created by the National Association of Community Health Centers, to estimate the financial impact for their health center.