UPDATE: On Friday, February 9th, 2018, Congress passed legislation to fix the Health Center funding cliff. Health Centers in Alameda County stood to lose over $20 million of funding if the funding cliff was not resolved. The legislation includes a two-year extension of funding for the Community Health Centers Fund (CHCF). The unfortunate news is that the $20 million funding challenge remains and will intensify because the legislation was only a 2 year fix. Therefore, very shortly, we will have to start advocacy again in an environment of skyrocketing federal deficits.
In addition to reauthorizing the CHCF, Congress also reauthorized two years of funding for the National Health Service Corps, the Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program and the Special Diabetes Program. To add to the good news, health center funding will increase by $600 million over the two year period; specifically, the Health Center Fund will increase from $3.6 billion per year to $3.8 billion in FY18 and $4.0 billion in FY19.
Background: Health centers are funded by two sources: annual discretionary appropriations and the Health Centers Fund, which is only funded through September 2017. Historically, Congress has voted on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis to extend both of these funding streams, which support health center operations, care for the uninsured, and the cost of services (such as translation, transportation, health education) not typically covered by insurance. Without action from Congress before September 30th, health centers face a devastating 70% cut in grant funding. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that this “funding cliff” will lead to a closure of 2,800 health center sites, 51,000 layoffs of clinicians and other personnel, and loss of access for more than 9 million patients nationwide.