Health cen­ter lead­ers to strate­gize about fed­eral fund­ing

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK AHEAD - —Steven Ross John­son

Lead­ers of com­mu­nity health cen­ters will come to­gether this week in San Diego to dis­cuss how to meet the in­creased de­mand for med­i­cal and be­hav­ioral-care ser­vices un­der the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act’s in­sur­ance ex­pan­sion while fac­ing an end to ex­tra fund­ing un­der the law.

The an­nual Com­mu­nity Health In­sti­tute and Expo will run Aug. 22-28, hosted by the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Com­mu­nity Health Cen­ters.

In July, HHS an­nounced it was pro- vid­ing $ 100 mil­lion in grants to de­velop 150 health cen­ter sites by 2015 with fund­ing from the Af­ford­able Care Act. The goal was to ex­pand care to med­i­cally un­der­served parts of the coun­try. But cen­ter officials are wor­ried that a ma­jor source of grant fund­ing could dry up. Un­der the Sec­tion 330 grant pro­gram of the Pub­lic Health Ser­vice Act, the ACA has added $11 bil­lion in manda­tory fund­ing since 2011 to nor­mal an­nual dis­cre­tionary ap­pro­pri­a­tions. That one­time boost is sched­uled to ex­pire in Septem­ber 2015. Cen­ter lead­ers say this could force them to cut ser­vices or close sites.

There are about 1,300 com­mu­nity health cen­ters across the coun­try, with more than 9,000 sites serv­ing about 25 mil­lion Amer­i­cans. The cen­ters are a key source of care for many low­er­in­come Amer­i­cans newly in­sured un­der the health­care re­form law. The cen­ters ac­cept all pa­tients, charg­ing fees on a slid­ing-scale to those pa­tients with in­comes above 200% of the fed­eral poverty level.

Be­fore the ACA was passed, com­mu­nity health cen­ters en­joyed strong bi­par­ti­san back­ing. Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush was a big sup­porter. But the like­li­hood of con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans sup­port­ing a con­tin­u­a­tion of the ex­tra Oba­macare fund­ing is low.

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