For the past four months, health care advocates found themselves on pins and needles over the future of community health centers. By allowing the deadline to renew the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF) to pass, Congress had put 9 million patients at risk.
This is why February 6 was designated as a Day of Demonstration for America’s Health Centers. On this historical day, hundreds of advocates dressed in red rallied in Washington DC for a meeting with lawmakers to express the urgency of a long-term fix to the health center funding cliff. Around the country, millions demonstrated their support on social media with #RedAlert4CHCs.
The community health center program began in 1965 with only two clinics. Now, there are 1,400 health centers – Charles B. Wang Community Health Center being one of them. Community health centers (CHC) are a source of affordable, high-quality primary care in rural and urban settings with medically underserved populations. They are also the backbone of communities they serve. CHCs contribute to community health improvement projects such as sanitation and affordable housing and are often part of the first public health responders during major natural disasters. In 2016, nearly 26 million Americans received their care from a CHC.
The CHCF first came to being in 2010 as a part of the Affordable Care Act. Each year, it receives $3.6 billion in federal funding, making up 70% of CHC operating revenue. In states that did not adopt Medicaid expansion, CHCs rely on this funding just to maintain their daily operations.
Fortunately, their voices were heard. On February 12, Congress passed legislation that will extend funding for two years, including an additional $600 million for operations costs. The passion and dedication of health care advocates have made an incredible impact on millions of lives around the country.