Primary Health Care
Effective primary health care is the foundation of a high functioning health care system. Primary health care is the care you receive through your local doctor, physician's assistant, nurse practitioner or other qualified health professional to help you better maintain your health. As chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, Sen. Bernie Sanders is committed to initiatives and programs that promote primary health care. Sen. Sanders secured $12.5 billion in the Affordable Care Act to expand health centers across the country, deploy more doctors, dentists and other health care professionals in underserved areas and double, to 40 million, the number of patients who have access to affordable primary care, dental care, mental health counseling and low-cost prescription drugs.
Study after study has shown that access to better primary care results in better health outcomes, reduced health disparities and reduced spending on avoidable emergency room and institutional care. A strong primary care system not only makes Americans healthier, it saves the nation money, especially through prevention and by treating health situations when they arise - rather than waiting until those situations worsen and require more extensive and costly care.
Comprehensive primary care includes care from a consistent source throughout a person's life: from prenatal care to coordination of care for chronic diseases in older age. But primary health care does more than just provide care for individuals and families. It also addresses the overall health of the community. It helps communities take important steps to prevent disease and promote healthy choices. Healthy communities can have a tremendous impact on the health of individuals and can help to promote physical activity, increase access to nutritious food, help people quit smoking and increase both life expectancy and quality of life.
In rural areas like Vermont, many people have a difficult time finding a primary health provider. This is why Sen. Sanders has led the effort to dramatically expand the Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) program both in Vermont and around the country. FQHCs provide high quality, affordable preventative and primary health care services in underserved communities, rural and urban, and are especially effective in increasing access to care and significantly reducing health care costs. Today, one in five Vermonters receives their primary healthcare through one of the eight FQHCs operating throughout the state. Each health care center has satellite sites throughout the state, creating a total of 48 locations to serve Vermonters. In all, more than 120,000 Vermonters are treated through these facilities. Sen. Sanders is committed to further expanding the program and ensuring every Vermonter has access to quality health care in their community. To help achieve this goal, Sen. Sanders secured a $10 billion investment in the FQHC program during the health care reform debate.