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Health Center Expansion Plans Not Seen as Partisan

Community health centers provided medical care for more than 450,000 people in Missouri in 2014.(Pixabay)
Community health centers provided medical care for more than 450,000 people in Missouri in 2014.(Pixabay)
July 12, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Hundreds of thousands of people in Missouri 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 Missouri provided services for over 450,000 patients, and the majority were at or below the federal poverty level (74 percent).

Joseph Pierle, CEO, Missouri Primary Care Association, explains that health centers are a critical resource in Missouri, especially in low-income communities.

"We see high numbers of people who are low-income, have no form of insurance, don't qualify for subsidies on the exchange,” he states. “We obviously don't have Medicaid expansion, so they really have nothing. These are people who often work sometimes more than one job just to make ends meet."

Pierle says because of their focus on prevention, health centers save the U.S. health care system more than $24 billion annually in reduced preventable hospitalizations and emergency room use.

And he notes that health centers are one of the few health care initiatives that enjoy broad bipartisan support.


"In a state like Missouri, where it's more conservative, that support helps us garner funding and other changes to policies that are needed for our patients,” he states. “I think overall Republicans and Democrats see the value that we provide to our patients."

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 - MO