Health centers could cut services if funds not reauthorized
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Community health centers providing critical primary care to more than 350,000 of Louisiana’s poorest residents say cuts to their services are possible if the federal government does not reauthorize a vital fund.
Lawmakers have temporarily kept the national community health center fund going although it expired Sept. 30, The Advocate reported . It helps pay for almost 10,000 centers across the country and provides $90 million annually to Louisiana’s community health centers.
Timothy Young, CEO of Open Health Care Clinic in Baton Rouge, said the $650,000 his clinic receives through the federal program is set to expire at the end of May. Losing that money would force them to choose how many uninsured patients can be served and whether expanding services will have to slow down, Young said. More than half who go to Open Health are on Medicaid or are uninsured, he said.
Access Health Louisiana CEO Mark Keiser said funding cuts would add stress to hospitals and emergency rooms. It would also risk progress made since Hurricane Katrina in routing patients to community health centers, most of whom previously used emergency rooms or hospital-run clinics for routine illnesses.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a package of bills Tuesday designed to avoid another government shutdown that includes funding over two years for federally qualified health centers.
Republican U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy of Louisiana signed onto a bipartisan letter Tuesday urging Senate leaders to reauthorize funding. They are among congressmen blaming Democrats for voting against it.
Senate Democrats are expected to block the package because it does not increase funds for domestic programs alongside money for the military.
Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com