Sunday, August 6, 2017

Community health centers could bear the brunt of federal decisions

By Mary Kuhlman
Ohio News Connection

More than 700,000 Ohioans rely on Community Health Centers for their medical care, and some could lose those services depending on decisions at the federal level.

With their revised health-care plan unable to muster enough votes, some GOP senators are now pushing legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Julie Di Rossi, the chief operating officer of the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers explains repeal would mean a loss of medical coverage for many in Ohio, including those who gained it under Medicaid expansion. She contends a strong and viable safety net through Medicaid is crucial in the state's underserved areas.

"Community Health Centers' best payer is the Medicaid program, and so, as patients are connected to coverage, we have more revenue coming back to the health center - so we can expand our footprint, our services; expand hours of operation; bring more services under one roof," she explains.

Meanwhile, a federal funding extension for Community Health Centers expires September 30.

Di Rossi says without additional funding, centers will face another primary-care funding cliff, which could affect an estimated nine-million patients nationwide, according to federal estimates.

She says without health insurance, people don't access preventive care and typically end up in emergency rooms when a medical problem becomes unbearable.

"That far down the road, it's costly - not only for the individual but for the entire health-care system," she adds. "So, we would like to see folks continue to maintain that coverage, so we can see not only their outcomes continue to be better, but it also makes dollars and sense for the health-care system as a whole."

Di Rossi is hopeful leaders will put both their plans to repeal Obamacare and cut Medicaid on the back burner, as there are many other areas that need attention.

"The primary-care funding cliff, there is broad bipartisan support there, and there's great support to fixing the marketplace and bringing stabilization in that area," Di Rossi notes. "And so, I would implore our officials to set Medicaid aside and work on those issues."

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that current ACA repeal legislation would result in a loss of medical coverage for 22 million Americans.

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