WASHINGTON, March 28 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) announced legislation Thursday to extend and expand funding for community health centers and the National Health Service Corps. If Congress doesn’t act by September 30th, community health centers will lose the federal funding they need to keep their doors open.
Community health centers provide high-quality primary medical, dental, mental health care, substance use disorder treatment, and low-cost prescription drugs to 28 million people in 11,000 communities in every state in the country.
Sanders and Clyburn’s bill would allow 5.4 million more Americans to receive the primary care they need. The National Health Service Corps provides scholarships and loan-repayment to over 10,000 clinicians each year working in underserved communities, often in health centers.
“In the richest country in the world, no American should have to go without basic health care. Community health centers are a critical lifeline for millions of Americans, and we must build upon their success by expanding them to everyone who needs them,” Sanders said.
“I have often described the Affordable Care Act as the Civil Rights Act of the 21st Century because it banned many forms of discrimination in the healthcare system. The ACA was a critical piece of legislation that also dramatically expanded the federal funding for community health centers. This legislation builds on the steps taken by the ACA to further expand community health centers by ensuring the millions of Americans who get primary care from community health centers continue to receive care and expands access to more medically-underserved communities,” Clyburn said.
Under this bill, community health centers and the National Health Service Corps will see a 10 percent increase in funding each year for five years. The legislation also includes $4.6 billion for capital projects, which will allow community health centers across the nation to modernize their facilities and expand the scope of services they offer to better address the opioid epidemic and to meet the health care needs of an expanding patient base.
Each year, community health centers generate more than $24 billion in savings to the entire U.S. healthcare system. Over 220,000 people are employed by community health centers, and they generate nearly $55 billion in total economic activity.
Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are co-sponsors of the legislation in the Senate and 57 Members in the House are cosponsoring the legislation.
Organizations endorsing the legislation include: National Association for Community Health Centers; The Association of Clinicians for the Underserved; National Medical Association; The National Birth Equity Collaborative; National Black Nurses Association; Mental Health America; Morehouse School of Medicine; National Center for Transgender Equality; The African American Health Alliance; Southeast Asia Resource Center; Black Women’s Health Imperative; National Indian Council on Aging; National Hispanic Council on Aging; Diverse Elders Coalition; Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy; The National LGBTQ Task Force; and The National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, Inc.
Read a summary of the legislation here.
Read the text of the legislation here.
Watch the press conference here.