School-based health centers have become the latest defunding target of House Republicans, whose legislation to eliminate funding to construct these facilities passed in the lower chamber Wednesday by a vote of 235 to 191.
House approves bill to defund school-based health centers
Sponsored by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), a physician, the bill would repeal a section in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to provide grant funding to construct school-based health centers and aims to rescind any unobligated appropriations for the program.
According to the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care, more than 1,900 school-based health centers nationwide provide medical care, mental health services, oral healthcare, preventive services, social services and youth development to about 2 million children in 44 states and Washington, D.C. The association also said that more than 350 applicants across the country are seeking funding through the first round of competitive grants created in the Affordable Care Act, which provided $50 million per year for four years in one-time funding for the construction, renovation, and equipment for school-based health centers.
In a letter (PDF) to members of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee in March after Burgess introduced the bill, the NASBHC said these centers provide services regardless of students' ability to pay, and that the Affordable Care Act grants will also support local businesses as more money will be put toward construction jobs, renovation supplies and equipment. NASBHC's executive director issued a statement Wednesday saying that anyone who voted for this bill “voted against a critical and cost-effective part of our nation's healthcare safety net for students.”
But in a separate statement Wednesday, Burgess emphasized that the grants through 2013 are for construction only and there is an “express prohibition” on using the funds to provide health services.
“I am not against school-based health centers,” Burgess said in his statement. “I am on record supporting them and believe opening healthcare points of access is important. I want to do more in this realm, but providing mandatory spending to construct facilities without adequate safeguards that they will provide care is irresponsible. Not one guarantee of a doctor, not one cent of payment for an immunization, not one ounce of common sense in this section of PPACA.”
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