Sanders and Clyburn Introduce Bill to Expand Community Health Centers

WASHINGTON, June 26 – While Republicans attempt to force through a bill that would make health care unaffordable for millions of Americans, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and House Assistant Democratic Leader Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) announced legislation Monday that would double the number of patients community health centers have the capacity to serve, to reach 50 million in 2028 – a goal outlined in the 2016 Democratic Party platform.

Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) currently serve nearly 25 million people across the country and 1 in 4 Vermonters. The program’s funding is set to expire in September.

More than 155,000 Vermonters are served by community health centers, including more than 2,000 homeless Vermonters and 5,000 veterans. In rural areas, nearly 9 in 10 Vermonters are served by community health centers. Additionally, community health centers have created more than 1,100 jobs across the state.

"We cannot wait until the last minute to address this and we cannot let health centers close their doors because Congress couldn’t get their act together. Where do these millions of people go when they and their families need quality health care to manage their conditions and keep themselves healthy if community health centers disappear? Given the crisis we have in primary health care, we must act immediately and boldly," Sanders said.

"As we are now dealing with attacks to the Affordable Care Act, Senator Sanders and I are introducing this legislation to expand and make permanent community health center funding and programs that were created in the ACA," Clyburn said.

The Community Health Center and Primary Care Workforce Expansion Act would dramatically expand and make permanent community health center funding and programs that were created in the Affordable Care Act.

Sanders and Clyburn’s bill would expand the funding for FQHCs as well as the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education program (THCGME), and create a funding stream for the Family Nurse Practitioner Residency program.

Additionally, the bill includes $18 billion of funding for capital projects to invest in the infrastructure and expand the physical capacity of community health centers in our nation’s most medically underserved neighborhoods.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Reps. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Dwight Evans (D-Penn.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.). Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Gregorio Sablan (D-M.I.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), José Serrano (D-N.Y.), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) are original co-sponsors of the legislation.

Organizations endorsing the legislation include the National Association of Community Health Centers, National Association of Social Workers, the National Healthy Start Association, Morehouse School of Medicine, Association of Clinicians for the Underserved, NAACP, Public Citizen, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Minority Quality Forum, Remote Area Medical, Prescription Justice, Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities Coalition, Los Angeles LGBT Center, Lana’i Community Health Center, African American Health Alliance, Bi-State Primary Care Association, Waimanalo Health Center, STEM4Us and API Wellness.

Read a summary of the legislation here.

Read the text of the legislation here.