Senate Boosts Community Health Centers, Sanders Envisions Service Throughout Vermont

The Senate last night passed the largest increase in the history of the Community Health Center Program.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is a leading advocate for the program and fought for the $250 million increase in funding.

"In Vermont in recent years, we have expanded the number of health centers from two to six, and my hope is that we can add an additional three or four more centers in the next three years. These centers now serve over 86,000 Vermonters. They provide quality health care, quality dental care, low cost prescription drugs, and mental health counseling in some 23 different locations around the state of Vermont. The centers are the medical home for 24 percent of Vermont's Medicaid beneficiaries and serve 19 percent of our uninsured," said Sanders.

"Nationally, health centers not only efficiently provide quality care in underserved communities, they are filling a major gap in our nation's health care system where primary care is becoming a lost profession. It is no secret that in many parts of America, especially rural America, it is very, very hard for people to find a primary care physician.

"Health centers provide access to quality health services for all, regardless of families' ability to pay. Everyone knows there are huge gaps in America's health care system. Millions of Americans do not get the preventative care they need to stave off future illness. Millions of Americans skip routine check ups because they can't afford them," said Sanders.

The increased level of support the Senate approved would finance roughly 500 new or expanded health centers, serving an additional 2 million people nationally. More than 16 million Americans currently benefit from these health centers.

For an average federal grant expenditure of $124 per patient, per year, the centers offer comprehensive medical, dental, and mental health services to all, regardless of their ability to pay. The Office of Management and Budget has cited the program as one of the most efficient in the use of taxpayer dollars.

The health center funding was included in an appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services.