The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced the availability of approximately $700 million to help build, expand and improve community health centers across the U.S. to provide needed care to low-income Americans. The funds, authorized by the Affordable Care Act, will support renovation and construction projects, boosting centers’ ability to care for additional patients and creating jobs in those communities.Of the $700 million, $600 million is for long term renovations and expansions, and $100 million for fixes that are needed right away. The $700 million is, of course, part of the $11 billion authorized for CHCs in the ACA. HHS also reports that since the beginning of the president's term, community health centers have added some 18,600 full time jobs in the most distressed communities across the country. That's just health center staff. Since the passage of health reform, they have been creating additional work from funds to expand and fix up health centers, i.e. construction jobs, just like with this grant.
I have said it before, but it bears repeating: one of the most important things the Affordable Care Act did was to massively expand the community health centers. If one agrees that health care, at the end of the day, should be a venture not waged for profit, then one cannot avoid the importance of the community health centers. The health centers currently serve over 20 million people, and are committed to doubling that capacity to 40 million by 2015. So for anyone who believes in a not-for-profit health care delivery system and for anyone for whom the phrase "underserved population" is more than a political phrase, this should be welcome news. Why? Let me present to you three simple charts from the 2009 National Association of Community Health Centers chartbook about the type of populations served by the Community Health Centers in our country:
By income level:
By race and ethnicity:
By insurance status:
Community Health Centers are not just the source of primary health care for millions of low-income Americans, they are integral part of the communities they are in. For the 60 million health-care disenfranchised Americans (the uninsured as well as those who are insured but can't afford to use their insurance), community health centers are a lifeline. And they create jobs for the people in those communities. The extension of the CHCs under the ACA is an extension and expansion of that lifeline.
All I can say is, thank goodness for ObamaCare!