By: Toni Granato, New Jersey Primary Care Association
Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) patients, doctors, nurses and other advocates will be in Washington, D.C. for a national press conference to discuss the urgent need to reinstate FQHC funding. The “Day of Demonstration -Red Alert for Community Health Centers” Fly-In press conference was held on Tuesday, February 6 at 10:30 AM. The press conference took place at the Capitol Triangle (outside the Capitol Building). Since 1965, FQHCs (also known as Community Health Centers) have served our communities by providing the medically underserved quality, cost-effective and efficient primary health care. The primary goal of the Fly-In Day is to ensure that Congress keeps Health Center funding at the top of their “must-do” priority list as part of their work to keep the government open past February 8. FQHCs from New Jersey are meeting with their representatives today to ensure funding is reinstated.
“We are talking about our neighbors. Over 200,000 New Jerseyans stand to lose their ability to get care if funding is not renewed,” says New Jersey Primary Care Association President and CEO Jillian Hudspeth. “Community Health Centers provide preventative and primary care to over 500,000 people in our state, keeping people healthy every day. Without funding from the federal government, Health Centers will have to cut staff, shorten hours and even cut services. People who do not have access to primary care will be forced to go to the emergency room for their health care needs at taxpayers’ expense.”
Although Community Health Centers have existed for over 50 years, the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF) was recently established in the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and was extended in 2015 for an additional two years. Congress failed to reauthorize the fund before its expiration on September 30, 2017, leaving Community Health Centers in limbo for the past several months as the Centers wait for Congress to extend the more than 70 percent of federal grant funding that Health Centers rely on. If funding is not restored, Community Health Centers in New Jersey stand to lose over $56 million in federal funding in 2018. The estimated number of patients not able to receive care would be 213,000 people, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers. A brief issued by George Washington University and RCHN Community Health Center stated that without funding, New Jersey would lose between $212 million and $453 million. New Jersey would lose between 2,000 and 4,000 jobs.
“Neglecting to provide funding for Community Health Centers will have a disastrous impact upon our Health Center,” says Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers President/CEO Linda Flake. “If the cliff is not fixed, services that are vital to the communities we serve may be cut by at least 20 percent! I am talking about primary medical, dental and behavioral health care that is provided to the most vulnerable populations. Patients will be forced to seek treatment at hospital emergency rooms, at best, a much costlier alternative. There will be drastic cuts in staff as well! Health Centers are required by regulation to establish a budget at the beginning of the fiscal year. How can we responsibly handle our operations with this uncertainty that impacts significantly upon our future stability as a safety net provider? The simple answer is, we can’t. The cliff must be fixed.”