The Importance of Federally-Qualified Health Centers
Federally-Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) are facing a severe loss in funding. On September 30, 2017, the Community Health Centers Fund, which accounts for 70% of Federal Funding for our programs and services, will expire. This potential loss could greatly impact their ability to deliver critical services to the patient populations of not only New Jersey, but the nation.
As Board Chairwoman of the New Jersey Primary Care Association, which represents all 23 Health Centers throughout the state of New Jersey, and President and CEO of Ocean Health Initiatives, Inc. (OHI), an FQHC with nine locations in New Jersey, I am gravely concerned for the future of our health care institutions. We are looking for support to help educate Congress about this dire situation, assuring that Health Centers can overcome this potentially catastrophic funding loss and remain safety net providers for underinsured and uninsured Americans. We are all part of a mighty voice that can be generated with the aid of patients and supporters, pushing forward our message urging Congress and our leaders to fix this funding cliff before it is too late.
Currently, FQHCs service over 27 million Americans. In addition, FQHCs help to lower health care costs, create new job opportunities and help to reduce the need for hospital visits. Through this necessary funding, Health Centers are able to provide primary and preventative care services to the uninsured and underinsured populations of America. Without funding, FQHCs would not be able to administer vaccinations, provide dental care, or offer family care services from infancy through our patient’s senior years.
For FQHCs to remain operational and continue to grow, Congress must extend the Health Center Fund and more and keep current funding levels where they are; if not raise them. If this funding cliff is not addressed, Health Centers across the country are looking at their programs being reduced by potentially 70%. This would be a devastating hit to the communities that FQHCs serve and could dramatically impact the health of the large patient populations that benefit from Health Center services. This could include the closing of nearly 2,800 Health Center Locations and a loss of more than 50,000 jobs, leaving nearly 9 million patients without the access to the care they desperately need and are currently receiving for their primary care needs.
We implore our leaders to take this message into consideration and provide a solution for this funding cliff. The health of many vulnerable patient communities depends on it.
By Theresa Berger, President and CEO of Ocean Health Initiatives, Inc. (OHI)