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Across the Aisle: Health Centers Have History of Bipartisan Support

hMore than 560,000 Ohioans received medical care from a community health center in 2014.
hMore than 560,000 Ohioans received medical care from a community health center in 2014.
July 12, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans receive medical care each year from community health centers, and even more could be served in the future.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has announced plans to significantly expand funding for health centers, a proposal crafted with the aid of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Dan Hawkins, senior vice president for research and policy for the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), explains that health centers have a history of bipartisan support, initially launched by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965.

"President George W. Bush made doubling the reach of health centers a priority during his term in office and he doubled the size of the program and the number of people they serve, as did U.S. Sen. John McCain and President Barack Obama during their run in 2008," Hawkins points out

Community health centers serve 25 million Americans each year, and the proposal could more than double the number by 2027.

In 2014, health centers in Ohio provided services for almost 560,000 patients, and the majority were at or below the federal poverty level (69 percent).

Hawkins says because of their focus on prevention, health centers save the U.S. health care system more than 24 billion dollars annually in reduced preventable hospitalizations and emergency room use. And he notes centers also are community problem solvers.

"They also reach beyond the walls of their exam rooms to address the factors that may cause poor health, lack of nutrition, poor mental health, homelessness or drug abuse,” he points out. “In fact, health centers are now part of the effort to address the nationwide opioid epidemic and the Zika virus."

Clinton's proposal calls for $40 billion for community health centers over the next decade, nearly double current funding levels.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH