By Representative Yvette D. Clarke, (NY-09)
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the number of Americans without insurance is rising for the first time in more than a decade. Even more worrisome, the current Administration has been on the attack to impede access to affordable health care. That is why my work in Congress has included supporting the work of community health centers, which serve 29 million people nationwide.
Community health centers have been a cornerstone of health care for many Americans, including underinsured and uninsured populations. The variety of family medical services provide much needed primary care for all stages of life. For over 50 years, community health centers have also employed health care professionals from the communities where they work to provide a balance of quality and efficiency of medical services for their patients.
At community health centers it’s common to provide flu vaccines during the colder months, routine visits for patients young to old and care for new mothers and their babies from providers who reside in the surrounding communities. Community health centers are an important part our health care network and fulfill an integral need for those they serve.
I recently joined my colleagues in passing a continuing resolution to fund community health centers through mid-November, but I remain acutely aware of the uncertainty this short-term solution creates for the 20 centers which serve more than 80,000 patients in New York’s Ninth District. These community health centers—plus those around the country–need long-term and stable funding to meet the growing demand for quality health care.
During my summer District work period I had the opportunity to visit one Community Health Center in my district, which serves more than 16,000 people. During my visit, the health care providers and I discussed how health care costs combined with the lack of access to quality services from providers patients can trust is creating a barrier for many people to receive the health care they need. This is a problem.
It’s why I have been working with my colleagues in Congress, to ensure health centers have reliable and long-term support. Community health centers are trying to keep pace with an unprecedented demand for services, including opioid addiction treatment, care for aging populations and addressing public health crises, while providing day-to-day care for our most vulnerable communities. Not only do 2.3 million New Yorkers depend on them for comprehensive health care services, community health centers are also local economic engines generating $4.95 billion in economic activity each year and providing more than 35,000 jobs across the state. New York stands to lose over $180 million in federal funding with the lapse of these program funds.
Our community needs access to high-quality care and we need to be active partners in reducing disparities in care. It’s important to act before these funds could expire next month and is why I am working with local community health centers to raise awareness about the importance of the Community Health Centers Program Fund.
As the Representative of the Ninth Congressional District of New York, Vice Chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, member of the Committee on Homeland Security and a Brooklyn native, I am committed to finding a solution for our community and communities around the country who rely on community health centers and to protect our local health care providers so they can focus on what matters most: providing care for the health and wellbeing of the millions of individuals who depend on their services.
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