Our View

Congress should renew funding for at least five years for the program that supports federally qualified health centers to ensure stability and preserve access to health care for those who rely on these sliding fee health care providers.

Recently, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., an advocate of the health care centers, toured a $1.4 million expansion of Access Family Care’s Joplin clinic, one of the centers that relies on the funding for its operation. Blunt called attention to the need for funding as well as his effort to expand the National Health Service Corps funding — the program that awards scholarships and loan repayment to primary care providers such as doctors and dentists who agree to work at federally qualified centers — with $15 million of proposed increased funding.

Federally qualified health centers are a critical part of the health care safety net in the United States. They receive funds from the Health Resources and Services Administration Health Center Program to provide primary care services in underserved areas. They particularly help care for veterans, the homeless, those in public housing and public schools as well as others.

More than 27 million people rely on these health centers for affordable, accessible primary health care. That includes one in nine children nationwide, one in three people living in poverty, one in five people in rural communities and more.

Blunt — a founding member and co-chairman of the U.S. Senate Community Health Centers Caucus — said it is important for people to understand the role of federally qualified health centers in providing people access to medical care.

“I am a big advocate, and I think most of the health care community over the past couple of decades has also become a big advocate for the role these centers play and the ability of everyone who comes through the door to find a way they can get treated,” Blunt said.

The two programs make sure medical, dental and mental health care are available regardless of insurance status and based on your ability to pay. They play a vital role in making sure care is available in rural areas and help ensure vulnerable people don’t fall through the cracks. They also save the overall health care system an estimated $24 billion.

These two programs provide an important safety net, a good return on the investment and are well worth supporting. Congress should provide the funding.

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