Failure to fund community health centers plays politics with people’s lives
By Rosa DeLauro
In all the chaos surrounding the Republican government shutdown last week, one critical issue deserved more attention: the fact that the Republican majority in Congress failed to include the main source of funding for Community Health Centers in their recent spending bill.
More than 10 percent of Connecticut residents receive their healthcare at Community Health Centers. In the past, Community Health Centers funding has been extended with bipartisan support — but in the Continuing Resolution passed in the House and Senate, Community Health Centers was excluded.
When I spoke to Dr. Sue Lagarde, the CEO of Fair Haven Community Health in New Haven, she was terrified. At a roundtable discussion at Fair Haven, she said that she is scared that “the basic human rights of our patients will be stripped to the core” by this lack of funding.
That is why I brought Dr. Lagarde to Washington, to sit in the House Chamber during the State of the Union: To look Republicans and President Donald Trump in the eye and highlight the catastrophic affect this lack of funding will have on patients and families in our community.
When we passed the Affordable Care Act, we included billions of dollars in additional funding for community health centers because of the integral role health care providers play in our communities. These centers meet a need for the vulnerable, including people who have fallen on hard times, immigrants and refugees, children, rural populations, and more.
In Connecticut, this lapse in funding means that the funding to health centers in our state could be cut by 70 percent — more than $40 million in direct loss of funds. The National Association of Community Health Centers estimates that 24 percent of health center patients could lose access to care — 90,000 people in our state losing primary healthcare. These are the very people that Republicans have willingly left behind in their spending bill. The president and Republicans are clearly unable to govern — except when it comes to giving huge tax cuts to the one percent and their corporate donors.
We cannot let this stand. This is a manufactured crisis, and Congress has the power to fix it. We must fund Community Health Centers on a long-term, predictable basis — not lurch from short term spending bill to short term spending bill. The American people sent us to Washington to enact public policy that improves people’s lives. I intend to keep fighting for Dr. Lagarde, community health centers across our state, and the thousands of patients whose care is on the line.