In July, HHS announced it was providing $100 million in grants to develop 150 health center sites by 2015 with funding from the Affordable Care Act. The goal was to expand care to medically underserved parts of the country. But center officials are worried that a major source of grant funding could dry up. Under the Section 330 grant program of the Public Health Service Act, the ACA has added $11 billion in mandatory funding since 2011 to normal annual discretionary appropriations. That one-time boost is scheduled to expire in September 2015. Center leaders say this could force them to cut services or close sites.
There are about 1,300 community health centers across the country, with more than 9,000 sites serving about 25 million Americans. The centers are a key source of care for many lower-income Americans newly insured under the healthcare reform law. The centers accept all patients, charging fees on a sliding-scale to those patients with incomes above 200% of the federal poverty level.
Before the ACA was passed, community health centers enjoyed strong bipartisan backing. President George W. Bush was a big supporter. But the likelihood of congressional Republicans supporting a continuation of the extra Obamacare funding is low. —Steven Ross Johnson
Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHsjohnson