Federal community health center programs, rural healthcare service outreach grants and the National Health Service Corps have been reauthorized until 2012 under a bill signed by President Bush.
The Health Care Safety Net Act of 2008 provides increased funding of federal community health centers to $3.3 billion 2012, up from $2.1 billion this year. It also raises funding of the National Health Service Corps to $186 million in the same five-year period.
Community health centers deliver care to more than 18 million people at about 6,600 sites nationwide, many in underserved urban and rural areas. The National Health Service Corps, funded at $131.5 million this year, provides financial assistance to medical students who agree to practice primary care in medically underserved areas after graduation. Congress last reauthorized these programs in 2002.
Also included in the law is the Rural Health Care Services Outreach grant programs reauthorization at $45 million annually until 2012. The programs are aimed at expanding and improving care delivery in rural areas. The law also calls for federal studies on the economic costs and benefits of school-based health centers and quality improvement activities at community health centers. -- by Rebecca Vesely