Community Health Centers face uncertainty due to federal funding cliff

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Editor’s Note: The Topic invited the Community HealthCare Association of the Dakotas to explain how the loss of federal funding impacts health care in our local communities. The Horizon Health Care clinics in Isabel, Bison, McIntosh, Eagle Butte, Faith and LaPlant are directly affected. This guest editorial comes from John Mengenhausen, CEO, Horizon Health Care; Shelly Ten Napel, CEO, Community HealthCare Association of the Dakotas; and CEOs of eight other community health centers in the two states.

As CEOs representing community health centers across North Dakota and South Dakota, we are committed to advancing our mission of providing quality and affordable health care to all Dakotans, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. We provide health care services to people in communities large and small, especially targeting rural areas and underserved populations. We are job creators and economic engines for the communities we serve. We strive every day to foster healthy communities and healthy families.

Federal funding supports our efforts to provide these valuable services and ensure access to health care for all, funding that is now in jeopardy because of Congress’ inaction. The Community Health Center Fund is a significant funding source for health centers, providing 70 percent of all federal funding for the health center program. That fund expired October 1, creating a devastating funding cliff that will have real impacts on our health centers, our patients and the communities we serve. In fact, our health centers are already facing negative impacts as a result of the uncertainty that the lack of funding commitments has created.

Nationally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that failure to reauthorize the Community Health Center Fund would lead to the closure of some 2,800 health center locations, the elimination of more than 50,000 jobs, and most importantly, a loss of access to care for some 9 million patients. In the Dakotas, the impact would be equally devastating, with a loss in federal funding of more than $20 million and more than 25,000 patients losing access to care across both states.


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