The Cost of Underfunding Federally Qualified Health Centers

The Cost of Underfunding Federally Qualified Health Centers and Repealing Obama Care

by Karla L. Thomas

If there were ever an issue Americans needed to create a movement about, it is our health care system. We can take up arms for sexual assault, police brutality, gender discrimination, gun violence etc., yet we sit back as though we are helpless when it comes to decisions about our health care. It has already been declared and accepted that access to AFFORDABLE health care is a right and not a privilege. President Obama saw to that before he left office.

Americans are healthier, emergency room visits are down and we have taken a heightened awareness about our personal responsibility for our health. Yet, here we are into the 2nd month of 2018 and community health centers across the country are still operating under the threat of a $70 million dollar cut to their funding. This and funding for the Medicaid expansion still remain unclear and undone. The current administration has continued its’ focus on the destruction of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obama Care), with no regard for the collateral damage its dismantlement is destined to bring not only to the poor, underserved and middle class, but to anyone utilizing the exchange to buy medical insurance.

Their weapon of choice – desertion. The result – government shut downs, temporary funding approvals and savage cuts to community health centers, Medicaid, Medicare and services. The primary benefactors – Insurance companies who shared those profits earned on the backs of our seniors, children and working class families with the top 1% richest Americans in the form of bonuses. The decision to remove the mandate to maintain medical insurance is likened to chopping the legs off of any table. The platform that holds access to insurance for all Americans is being ruthlessly destroyed, leaving millions vulnerable at a time when we are experiencing new strains of flu at epidemic proportions. Leaving funding for community health centers in limbo is actually unconscionable and cruel. It fuels a level of stress in the atmosphere that exacerbates feelings of disloyalty, anger and abandonment by our President and our government representatives.

The result is as follows:

1) Breakdowns in continuity of care, especially for seniors and those dealing with chronic illnesses (diabetes, high blood pressure, Sickle Cell, Lupus, Asthma, etc.) 2) Increased emergency room visits

3) Increased domestic violence – lack of access to mental health care because access to service is out priced by our inability to pay for office visits and high Copays.

4) Threatened changes to Medicaid eligibility thresholds that will reduce access to care because subsidy assistance has been callously withdrawn. This creates financial instability in families going broke from out-of-pocket medical expenses (i.e. ambulance, E.R. visits and unpaid co-pays)

5) The threat of changes to the Medicaid structure i.e., Medicaid as a State block grant shifts responsibility to State governments without time to prepare to assume this huge obligation. This could become a precedent setting maneuver to dump other federal level programs on State governments after slashing funding to dangerous levels.

6) Loss of Medicaid expansion impacts the Exchanges

7) Diminished health, especially in communities of color and poverty

8) Increased no show rates at federally qualified health centers (FQHC’s)

9)Increased revenue losses to FQHC’s which threaten their continued existence

10)Decreased/Denied access to care for patients with pre- existing conditions AND increased insurance premium costs directly related to those pre-existing conditions whose protection was guaranteed under Obama Care DACA, the Child Health Insurance Program, the Medicaid Expansion, and funding for Community Health Centers should have all been done by September 30, 2017.

These are all quality of life priorities for the American people but not our government! I urge every American, every immigrant – documented or undocumented, every free and incarcerated man or woman, every registered or unregistered voter, to get involved right now and stay on top of these issues. Let it be known that you KNOW you have the power to change things one vote at a time and your vote counts.

Join advocacy groups like the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) or the Community Health Center Association of New York State (CHCANYS) at www.nachc.org OR www.chcanys.org. This movement is not political. It’s a call to action with a small investment of personal time, but the return on this investment is not wealth – its good health (which is something you really can’t put a price on)!

If you are interested in helping bring this movement to life, please contact me at kthomas@chcb.net.

Every block club, clergy, teacher, health care and insurance worker, every farmer celebrity, homeless person, mentally and physically challenged person, every member of the military and their families, must use whatever means is at your disposal to send the following unified message to the President of the United States AND Congress: “We may be sleep now, but we will be awake in November!”

Karla L. Thomas is Director of Outreach and Marketing Community Health Center of Buffalo, Inc.

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