Columns

Community Health Centers are an Important Part of the Health Care System

f t # e
Washington, April 7, 2017 | Beth Breeding (202-225-5431) | comments

As the health care debate continues, let’s take a look at one aspect of the health care system that has the support of many in both parties. Community Health Centers (CHCs) have long been recognized as a proven and nonpartisan solution to primary care access. In fact, Community Health Centers provide primary care for over 25 million people in 9,800 rural and urban communities across the United States. 

So, just what is a Community Health Center? For over 50 years, Community Health Centers, also known as Federally Qualified Health Centers, have provided primary and preventative care, dental care, behavioral care, pharmacy services, and a variety of support services. Under federal law, in order to qualify for federal grant funding, CHCs must serve an underserved area or population, offer a sliding fee scale, provide comprehensive services, have an ongoing quality assurance program, and be governed by a board of directors.

CHCs deliver health care to those who need it the most, which is particularly important in rural areas, like much of the Sixth District. I have seen firsthand just how well CHCs serve those who need care and how they are able to do so in a fiscally responsible manner that ultimately provides savings across the health care system. It is estimated that Community Health Centers generate $24 billion in annual savings for the health care system. Additionally, these centers provide a significant economic impact, including thousands of jobs across the state and billions of dollars in revenue.

I have long been an advocate for Community Health Centers. Several great facilities offer services to folks in the Sixth District, including Johnson Health Center in Lynchburg, New Horizons Healthcare in Roanoke, Rockbridge Area Health Center, Harrisonburg Community Health Center, Highland Medical Center, and Blue Ridge Medical Center in Amherst County. Last month, I visited New Horizons and met with medical professionals and staff to discuss some of the challenges they face. Just last week, representatives from Johnson Health Center, Harrisonburg Community Health Center, and Blue Ridge Medical Center came to my office in Washington to advocate on behalf of CHCs.

While Community Health Centers existed long before Obamacare, when this law was passed in 2010 it recognized the value of these facilities and made a substantial investment in them. The good work done by CHCs continues to be recognized now. As we work on a new health care solution to replace Obamacare, it is important that CHCs receive support for their work to expand services and access.

Quality, affordable health care is necessary for the sustainability and viability of our health care system, and we must work to develop bipartisan solutions to address the future of health care. I will remain a strong supporter of the important role Community Health Centers play in America’s health care system and the affordable health care options they provide for many in the Sixth District.
f t # e