The fight over health care in America is sure to continue. President Donald Trump has not backed away from his opposition to former President Barack Obama's signature Affordable Care Act, but the president now says major action on health care will have to wait until after the 2020 election.
Despite the partisan nature of nearly every issue surrounding health care, there are priorities to be addressed ahead of the 2020 election.
One is extending funding for community health centers. If Congress doesn’t act by Sept. 30, health centers such as Orangeburg-based Family Health Centers Inc. will lose the federal funding they need to keep their doors open.
House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn is out front in trying to make sure that does not happen, being joined by Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential candidate, in proposing legislation to extend and expand funding for the health centers.
Under the bill, community health centers would see a 10 percent increase in funding each year for five years. The legislation also includes $4.6 billion for capital projects, which will allow community health centers to modernize their facilities and expand the scope of services they offer to better address the opioid epidemic and to meet the health care needs of an expanding patient base.
Community health centers are crucial to poor, rural areas. They provide primary medical, dental and mental health care, substance-use disorder treatment, and low-cost prescription drugs to 28 million people in 11,000 communities in every state in the country.
Toward informing Americans about health centers, the Health Resources and Services Administration released data compiled through its Uniform Data System reporting, providing an update on health centers’ provision of primary health care services.
In 2017, approximately one in 12 U.S. residents relied on a HRSA-supported health center for primary health care, including:
• One in nine children 17 years or younger.
• One in five rural residents.
• One in three people living in poverty.
• More than 355,000 U.S. veterans.
Each year, community health centers generate more than $24 billion in savings to the entire U.S. health care system. More than 220,000 people are employed by community health centers, and they generate nearly $55 billion in total economic activity.
In The T&D Region, Family Health Centers has its main Orangeburg site and satellite locations in Denmark, Holly Hill, Neeses, St. George, St. Matthews and Vance. The FHC has 166 employees and a total annual economic impact of $21,985,537.
With Sanders and other Democratic presidential hopefuls supporting the legislation, it is likely to get wrapped up in a political battle. For the sake of a lot of people receiving care at community health centers such as Family Health Centers, we hope not.