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Dr. Ruiz, Rep. Gomez Lead Effort for Additional Community Health Centers Funding

June 10, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC – Congressmen Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) and Jimmy Gomez (CA-34) are calling on House and Senate Leadership to protect and expand funding for Community Health Centers (CHCs), which play a vital role in treating patients, working with local health departments, and fighting the spread of the coronavirus. In a letter led by Congressmen Ruiz and Gomez, 40 California members of Congress urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to protect the $7.6 billion in funding set aside for CHCs in the Heroes Act and to include an additional $1 billion for telehealth infrastructure projects and $1 billion in emergency workforce funding.

“We must protect and expand funding for Community Health Centers to ensure they have the capacity to provide the care to keep our communities safe and healthy,” said Dr. Ruiz. “This is particularly urgent now, with unprecedented unemployment leading to a rising number of people who are uninsured and rely on Medicaid and the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 in communities that CHCs serve.”

“Community Health Centers have always played an essential role providing healthcare in our communities,” said Congressman Gomez. “Over the past months, they’ve been serving on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, facing unprecedented challenges at great personal risk. Congress needs to step up and support them during this national emergency, just as they’ve stepped up to ensure that our most vulnerable don’t fall through the cracks during this public health crisis.”

"Community clinics and health centers are on the front lines responding to COVID-19 in underserved communities that are being devastated by this crisis. CCALAC and our members appreciate the leadership of Representatives Gomez and Ruiz, and we thank California's Democratic congressional delegation for their strong support and leadership in advocating for the needs of community clinics and health centers and the communities they serve,” said Louise McCarthy, President and CEO, Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County.

“Community Health Centers fulfill an irreplaceable role in our country’s health care system,” said Henry N. Tuttle, President and Chief Executive Officer, Health Center Partners of Southern California. “They are a vital part of the COVID-19 response effort and continue to serve as medical homes for 29 million patients nationwide – 7.2 million Californians. Congressman Ruiz’s willingness to identify these critical financial gaps and bring them to the attention of the highest levels of government has been critical to ensure our frontline medical workers have the resources they need.”

The letter was also signed by Representatives Nanette Barragan (CA-44), Karen Bass (CA-37), Ami Bera, M.D. (CA-07), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Tony Cardenas (CA-29), Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (CA-39), Judy Chu (CA-27), J Luis Correa (CA-46), Jim Costa (CA-16), TJ Cox (CA-21), Susan A. Davis (CA-53), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Anna Eshoo (CA-18), John Garamendi (CA-03), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Mike Levin (CA-49), Ted W. Lieu (CA-33), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Scott H. Peters (CA-52), Katie Porter (CA-45), Harley Rouda (CA-48), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Linda T. Sanchez (CA-38), Adam Schiff (CA-28), Brad Sherman (CA-30), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Mark Takano (CA-41), Mike Thompson (CA-05), Norma J. Torres (CA-35), Juan Vargas (CA-51), and Maxine Waters (CA-43).

You can read a copy of the letter here or below. 

Background:

CHCs have experienced a significant drop in revenue due to the postponement or cancellation of non-essential services. In response to these revenue losses, health centers are facing difficult financial decisions that could hurt future access to health care for the population that they serve.

Nearly 30 million people rely on Community Health Centers for their care. In California, health centers serve 7.2 million patients annually.

During a public health emergency, health centers provide triage, treatment, and referrals in addition to working in partnership with the local health departments and the state of California. CHCs are uniquely positioned to assist in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 because they are rooted in the communities they serve and are trusted sources of care for anyone that walks through their doors.

Letter Copy: 

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader McCarthy, and Leader Schumer:

As members of the California delegation, we thank you for your consistent support of Community Health Centers (CHCs) as part of the COVID-19 response packages. We can all agree that CHCs are vital providers in our communities and Congress needs to help them stay solvent in these unprecedented times. We were pleased that a separate bucket of funding for CHCs was included in H.R. 6800, the Heroes Act, and urge you to maintain this funding in any final bill that goes to the President’s desk for signature.

Like Community Health Centers around the country, California’s CHCs have experienced a significant drop in revenue due to the postponement or cancellation of non-essential services. In response to these revenue losses, health centers are facing difficult financial decisions that could hurt future access to health care for the population that they serve. To keep Community Health Centers solvent, there is an urgent need for an additional infusion of emergency funding, as well as continued support for their operational needs.

Across the nation, nearly 30 million people rely on Community Health Centers for their care. In California, health centers serve 7.2 million patients annually - almost 17% of our constituents. During a public health emergency, health centers provide triage, treatment, and referrals in addition to working in partnership with the local health departments and the state of California. This crisis is no different - CHCs are uniquely positioned to assist in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 because they are rooted in the communities they serve and are trusted sources of care for anyone that walks through their doors.

Health centers are implementing drive-up, walk-up, and mobile COVID-19 testing centers, and they are working with local health departments to bring testing to the homeless populations throughout California. It is essential that emergency funding for CHCs can be used to cover losses attributable to COVID-19, as well as the costs of testing and treatment. This will enable health centers to re-employ staff in an effort to continue to expand services and outreach and to respond to COVID-19. This is especially critical as more and more people lose their jobs and become eligible for Medi-Cal. CHCs anticipate that their patient caseload will increase significantly as a result.

As you continue to negotiate the next relief package, we urge you to maintain the requested $7.6 billion funding stream included in the House-passed Heroes Act.

Additionally, as more telehealth is utilized during this crisis, health centers are working to expand their telemedicine capabilities so that they can continue to treat our most vulnerable constituents for their chronic conditions while maintaining the ability to treat COVID-19 patients. We ask that you include a minimum of $1 billion for telehealth infrastructure projects at CHCs in the final relief package.

We are also aware that care needs will drastically shift as we aim towards a new normal – balancing COVID-19, preventative, and routine care. Because of the anticipated increase in patients that we expect to see coming through health center doors in the coming months, we ask that you provide a minimum of $1 billion in emergency workforce funding so that health centers are able to maintain sufficient staffing levels.

To further support workforce maintenance, we request an exemption for organizations with more than 500 employees. Across the country, roughly 100 health center organizations have more than 500 employees, but they are often deployed across multiple sites. They are ineligible for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or Emergency Paid Leave Program due to their total number of employees. We encourage you to enable health center organizations to count employees per physical location when determining eligibility, as is allowed for businesses in the accommodation and food industries.  

As you know, state budgets are suffering during the COVID-19 crisis with losses in tax revenue and additional financial burdens places on the states.  California’s revised budget released last week includes dramatic cuts that would severely impact the health care safety net, so we urge to you to help us avoid additional cuts by prioritizing the assistance for state and local governments that was included in the Heroes Act as Congress works to negotiate a final bill.

Finally, we understand that the COVID-19 relief package that is currently being negotiated is focused on immediate needs related to the pandemic. However, funding for health centers, National Health Service Corps, and the Teaching Health Center GME Program is scheduled to expire at the end of November, right when many experts predict we will have a second, potentially worse, COVID-19 wave. We therefore ask that you extend this funding for five years well in advance of the November 30 deadline, so that CHCs around the country will be able to continue their COVID-19 response without having to worry about long-term planning.

Thank you for your consideration and for all of the work you are doing to ensure that our frontline workers have the resources that they need as they continue to serve our communities.

Sincerely,

 

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