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More Patients, Less Funding?

August 9, 2011

RICHMOND, Va. - The role and contributions of Community Health Centers are being celebrated this week in Virginia and around the country, but some worry there will be little to celebrate in the near future, as Congress debates funding cuts to a variety of programs, including Medicaid and Medicare.

Rick Shinn, the director of government affairs for Virginia Community Health Care Association, says there's reason for such worry.

"We are very concerned about future funding for Community Health Centers and the impact that will have on the people that need them the most. And we're also very concerned about the potential funding impact on Medicaid."

Shinn says there are 114 Community Health Center sites around Virginia, providing health care to more than 270,000 Virginians, without regard for their ability to pay.

"The people using our services are able to obtain primary medical care, dental care, pharmaceuticals, behavioral health care, that otherwise they would not be able to access, particularly those who are in rural areas, as well as the inner-city areas."

Shinn explains that fewer health care professionals practice in such areas for financial or lifestyle reasons, making Community Health Centers especially critical in these under-served areas. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in 17 people in the U.S. relies on federally-funded Community Health Centers for primary care.

Shinn says he hopes Congress will, at the very least, continue the government's current level of support to community health centers.

A bipartisan committee of 12 federal lawmakers is expected to provide suggestions for trimming more than $1 trillion from the federal budget by Thanksgiving.

Information on Community Health Center Week is at www.healthcenterweek.org


Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA