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Health Clinics Waiting for Congress to Renew Funding

Congress must approve a new budget by Thursday to keep the federal government open. One of many items at stake is funding for Community Health Centers that serve people who are low-income or uninsured. (C-SPAN)
Congress must approve a new budget by Thursday to keep the federal government open. One of many items at stake is funding for Community Health Centers that serve people who are low-income or uninsured. (C-SPAN)
February 7, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Thousands of uninsured Arkansans are currently in limbo, waiting to see if Congress approves funding for community health centers.

Lawmakers face a Thursday deadline to approve a new budget to avoid another shutdown of the federal government.

The Federally Qualified Health Centers program was not renewed in October, and unless Congress acts, money for clinics will run out on April 1.

LaShannon Spencer, CEO of Community Health Center of Arkansas, was in Washington this week, lobbying lawmakers for funding.

"When you start thinking about the impact of the funding in the future and the patients, it's critical because of potential hiring freezes, layoffs, staff, reducing hours, or actually closing, and a delay in expansion of health centers," she states.

Spencer says there are 135 community clinics in Arkansas that are often the only health care option for low-income and uninsured families.

In most cases, more than half of the funding for community clinics comes from the federal program.

Spencer adds that community clinics are the health care home of most of Arkansas's 300,000 Medicaid patients.

She says without access to care at the clinics, low-income and uninsured Arkansans would have few choices when they need health care.

"So many of the patients that our health centers actually see are based in rural areas, and they would have to travel to an ER (emergency room) because of the lack of providers within their communities," Spencer points out.

Community clinics provide free or low-cost care, funded by grants and donations as well as local, state and federal dollars.

Lawmakers have until midnight Thursday to OK a budget, or at least a temporary extension, to keep the clinics – and the government – running.


Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR