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Michigan community health centers face uncertain future

Genesee Community Health Center mobile care
Genesee Community Health Center
Like other health centers, the Genesee Community Health Center offers mobile care.

Since 1965, community health centers have provided care for low-income and uninsured Americans.

And now, that vital care for 26 million people in more than 10,000 locations is threatened by the failure of Congress to renew its funding, which expired September 30.

If the fund is not renewed, community health centers could lose out on $3.6 billion, and one policy brief from the National Association of Community Health Centersestimates between 76,000-161,000 private jobs could be lost nationwide.

Loretta Bush is the CEO of the Michigan Primary Care Association. She says that there are 260 health center sites across Michigan that are visited over 2 million times a year.

You can listen to her interview on Stateside above, or read highlights below.

On the patients health centers serve

“While health centers are able to take all insurances and people of all incomes, we predominately see those that are uninsured, underinsured ... especially uninsured before the Healthy Michigan Plan. Of course, with the passage of the ACA, which allowed for the Healthy Michigan Plan to come in place, more and more of the people we see now have the Healthy Michigan Plan, which is a great benefit for them and increases access.

"But even before that, our mission is to see everyone that walks through the door. That’s what the health center movement was about 50 years ago, and it remains the same today.”

On the kinds of services offered by health centers

“Our bread and butter, our base, is primary care and preventative care. So, this is one of the few areas that has truly made an investment in preventative care and primary care, and identifying chronic disease, teaching people how to manage their chronic disease, so that’s kind of the base at which we start. We also provide maternal and child care ... dental care in most of our facilities, and the connection between good oral health and physical health in general is well-known, and so that’s a critical part of what we do. And then also the integration of behavioral health services. So it’s really mind, body, and oral health.”

On the uncertainty of federal funding

“These are such uncertain times. We in the past have always enjoyed bipartisan support, and we feel that we still have that bipartisan support. But unfortunately, with all of the other wrangling that’s going on in Congress about trying to repeal the ACA and now this new tax reform, the Health Center Funding has kind of gotten caught up in a lot of other things, something we have not seen over the years. And it feels very unsettling -- it is very unsettling for us in our attempts to go forward.

So to this date, there has not been a refunding of the health centers, and we’re getting very close to that point where health centers in Michigan and all over the country are gonna have to start making some very difficult decisions if Congress doesn’t make a decision soon to refund the funding that supports health centers.”

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