Despite progress in early November in the form of Houses’s Championing Healthy Kids Act, the community health center’s “Fix the Cliff” issue is still far from resolved. And now, it seems, there’s talk of another delay to the critical safety net funding until after the first of the year.
Understandably, Congress has had a rather full plate moving into the new year. However, the lack of movement concerning health center funding is continuing to take its toll on the nation’s health centers and the communities they serve. Presently, health centers are reporting difficulty recruiting providers and purchasing equipment with some sites discussing closure due to funding uncertainty. (X)
Recent estimates suggest 27 million, or 1 in 12 Americans, receive care from a community health center. For many of these Americans, health centers are the only viable option within a considerable distance. Because health centers provide care for anyone, regardless of their ability to pay, the inability to properly staff or equip a center, or the closure of even one site could be the difference of life or death for many in a community.
That’s why it’s as important as ever that you take action TODAY and demand your Members of Congress recommit to fixing community health center funding before the end of the year.
The U.S. Capitol may be hundreds of miles away but readers should understand the actions our leaders take have a direct and immediate impact on our community.
A case in point is an imperiled health care program that already delivers results for the American taxpayer: Community Health Centers. They now serve 1 in 12 Americans, or 27 million people. Health centers don’t just save lives, they also lower health care costs, create jobs, and reduce hospital visits so that fewer dollars are spent on “sick care.” But unless Congress acts by the end of this month to extend their funding, the consequences for these health centers and their patients will be drastic.
The program would be reduced by approximately 70%. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) itself has projected that the impact would be dramatic: closure of 2,800 health center locations, elimination of more than 50,000 jobs, and a loss of access to care for more than 9 million patients. Keep in mind this is a program that has been in place for more than 50 years and enjoys broad bipartisan support in Congress. Right now more than 75 national organizations, representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, health centers, children, patients, the faith community, financial institutions and health care industry partners, are banding together and calling on lawmakers to extend health center funding before September 30.
Please help us bring this end of month deadline to our lawmakers attention and ask them to act now. Time is running out! For information on how you can get involved and contact your elected leaders, visit www.hcadvocacy.org today.
This week, Compass staff Summer Kirby (CEO), Eva Gitome (CFO), and Erin Trapp (Clinical Director) traveled to San Diego to attend National Association of Community Healthcare Center’s (NACHC) annual Community Health Institute (CHI) and Expo. While there they looked for opportunities to network with representatives from Federally Qualified Healthcare Centers (FQHCs) from all across the nation, as well as attend general and individualized informational sessions on topics vital to community health center (CHC) operations and interests.
During the opening general session, participants were greeted by new NACHC Board Chair Jim Luisi. Luisi took the opportunity to remind the audience of the fast approaching FQHC fiscal cliff and the important role advocates will play in the coming weeks. They also heard from a community health center patient Anna Arellano, who said community health centers were the key to helping her live a healthier life.
Individualized session topics included discussions on how to improve work flow to identify and address the socioeconomic needs of patients, either through in-house means or through referral sources. Another session focused on how to reduce dependency on grant funding should reductions to the federal budget be ratified. There was also a session on up-to-the-minute updates from Capitol Hill, with special emphasis on funding, Medicaid, telehealth and more.
One overarching theme of the convention has been the pressing reality of the upcoming FQHC fiscal cliff. If Congress does not act by September 30, 2017 community health centers stand to lose upwards of 70% of their funding. This funding is vital to ensuring community health centers can continue to deliver high quality, affordable health care to all members of the community, regardless of their ability to pay.
That’s why it’s imperative you sign up as an ADVOCATE TODAY, and tell your legislators that good health and FQHC funding is important to you.
On Tuesday, August 22, 2017, I was honored to receive an invitation to meet and speak with Senator Bernie Sanders who was invited to come here to hear about some of the issues we are facing together. Organizers worked hard to coordinate with the Senator’s staff, so that many representatives from our community would have a chance to speak.
After arriving at the Vern Riffe Center on the campus of Shawnee State University, and being introduced to the panelists, it was clear the atmosphere was filled with excitement. This event created an opportunity to hear real life experiences from real people that were there to advocate and educate on behalf of our community with one of our nationally elected, political leaders.
Each panelist shared their account of specific topics, including one father’s personal story of caring for a special needs child, another speaker was a behavioral health counselor who works with the addicted population, there was a union leader who talked about the value of work to a person’s self esteem and more. Senator Sanders embraced all of the speakers and topics, added his views, and opened up the discussion to those in the audience who also had a chance for their voice to be heard. I was asked to speak on the topic of Health care, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the opiate epidemic. Below is the text of the healthcare story I shared with my community that day.
I am a native resident. After graduating from Notre Dame High School, I moved to Columbus and completed my undergraduate degree while working full-time as a college student. My husband and I came home to Scioto County from the Dayton area where I worked for Wells Fargo, and we had our first child. Now, our family and home is back here in Portsmouth. After spending 15+ years in the financial industry and volunteering in various organizations in our community, my path transitioned to Compass Community Health, a Federally Qualified Health Center, where we are bound by federal statute and our guiding mission to care for all patients, regardless of their insurance status.
My understanding and perspectives have changed.
Healthcare issues, specifically the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the opiate epidemic and substance abuse, are commonly misunderstood topics. The importance of these issues extend beyond party lines and impact all constituents, regardless of one’s education, upbringing or religion. Medicaid expansion was, is, and continues to be, a significantly positive impact in communities all across Ohio and the United States. While we may be at the center of the opiate epidemic, we are not unlike other communities across the nation.
Medicaid expansion enables access to care for services like primary care, mental health, addiction treatment recovery and general healthcare needs. It is common practice to connect with individuals who have not been able to access these services for core health needs, some results included an inability to maintain employment, addiction, and overusing emergency rooms and urgent care facilities to serve as a primary care provider. In my daily work, I see improvements in health outcomes due to the ACA and the commitment to Medicaid expansion.
Some highlights include:
1,100 men, in their mid-twenties, were able to access treatment services with The Counseling Center, a 35+ year alcohol and drug treatment agency serving residents from many Ohio counties.
That same organization celebrated 245 births for recovery babies (born to mothers in recovery).
One provider speaks of his patient finding herself unemployed for the first time in her life as a result of the economic downturn. As a diabetic that lost her coverage, she found herself in the ER due to lack of access to medical needs. She was able to regain access through Medicaid expansion and is now reporting her diabetes is controlled.
Employed individuals working in entry level positions also have access to healthcare through Medicaid expansion.
Cost, economic impact and sustainability of the program are core components of this discussion. One of the points commonly overlooked is the economic engine this program creates.
Medicaid expansion enabled my organization to hire additional providers, expand care for primary, mental health and women’s health as well as supplemental clinical and support staff.
The organization previously noted, The Counseling Center, added 67 jobs equating to $2.3 million in additional payroll.
These are but a few examples of investments; dollars that support our economy, goods being purchased, individuals seeking higher education and overall enhancements to the good health of the community.
Simply put, it’s a complex equation. The real impact for individuals with access to health care enables employment, healthier lifestyles and community support that is a positive health and economic driver.
Portsmouth residents recently had the opportunity to conduct a town hall style discussion with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at Shawnee State University. The event included a panel of community leaders who took the time to discuss important issues in our area. One such leader was Compass Community Health’s own Summer Kirby who highlighted the work of Federally Qualified Health Care Centers (FQHC), of which Senator Sanders is an avid supporter. Kirby explained to the capacity crowd how FQHC’s work as a safety net for the community’s most vulnerable by providing quality, affordable care to all, regardless of their ability to pay.
Summer Kirby detailed how the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and particularly Medicaid expansion, gave many Ohioans greater access to care, some for the first time in their lives. Kirby explained, for many expansion is a safeguard during times of difficulty or transition. She spoke of an unemployed woman who was unable to meet the costs of her diabetic prescriptions and supplies and couldn’t get in to regularly see her primary care provider. As a result, she sought medical attention only when it was critical to her survival and always via emergency care services. Thanks to Medicaid expansion coverage, she was able to afford to see her primary care provider regularly and regain control of her diabetes. Today, she is employed and has moved over to employer-sponsored health insurance coverage and routinely visits her primary care provider.
In her remarks, Kirby discussed how affiliated behavioral health provider The Counseling Center has successfully assisted 1100 men in their mid-20s with addiction treatment and recovery since Medicaid expansion (prior to expansion, many low income adults ages 19-64 would not have qualified for the program). The Counseling Center’s Stepping Stone Program for addicted mothers has also seen 245 recovery babies for Scioto County and Ohio mothers, since they first started tracking the number in 2009.
Not only has Medicaid expansion given Ohioans greater access to care, it has also impacted communities economically. Since expansion in 2013, The Counseling Center has added 67 new jobs resulting in $2.3 million in payroll, much of which is cycled back into the local economy.
Historically, FQHC’s have received strong support from all sides of the political spectrum. However, Compass is always in need of voices from the community who will attest to the important work FQHC’s are doing, or how important a strong Medicaid program is to the health of the community. Sign up to be a health center and community advocate today!
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Senate Moves Ahead to Health Debate, Endgame Unclear
Just after 3pm on Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted on the “Motion to Proceed” to debate over health reform legislation. The vote, which has been considered a key hurdle in the Congressional process of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), was 50-50, with two Republican Senators (Murkowski and Collins) voting no, and with Vice President Pence stepping in to break the tie.
What will happen next is very unclear. Reports this morning indicate that Senate leaders do not believe they have the necessary votes to pass either a “repeal and delay” bill along the lines of what passed in 2015, nor a version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) that’s gone through several iterations in the Senate so far. They are rumored to be planning a vote on a “skinny” repeal package that would include three elements: repeal of the individual and employer mandates, as well as the medical device tax put in place by the ACA. Under this circumstance, this would be considered a “lowest common denominator” necessary to get the votes to pass the Senate, and key details of a final package would be left to be negotiated with the House in a conference committee.
Click here and here for good summaries of where things stand, and keep an eye on the NACHC blog for the latest developments. In the meantime, advocates should continue to weigh in with Senators, as health centers’ concerns over these proposals remain unchanged.
If you aren’t signed up to receive NACHC’s weekly ‘Washington Update’ you may do so here.
UPDATE: Last night, the Senate voted on a modified version of the BCRA. This did not receive the required votes to pass.
UPDATE: Today, the “repeal and delay” option was introduced. This did not receive the required amount of votes to pass.
Following the introduction of the Ohio Senate’s version of the state budget early last week, Governor Kasich issued a line-item veto later that same week for the provision which would freeze enrollment for the expanded Medicaid group come July 2018. It was then heavily rumored that the Ohio legislature would seek to override the veto.
With hundreds of thousands of lives depending on expanded Medicaid, representatives from Compass Community Health and The Counseling Center travelled to Columbus, Ohio yesterday to partake in a rally outside the statehouse. There, they showed their support for the cause alongside OACHC and representatives from other Federally Qualified Health Centers, as well as many other Medicaid advocates.
Among the group of representatives was Chuck Oliver, a counselor at TCC, who not only went in show of support, but also spoke to the large crowd about what Medicaid expansion meant for him. Oliver, who also spoke during last month’s press conference, explained that, because of expansion, he was able to enter addiction treatment services, receive treatment for chronic conditions he was unaware he had, and then attend school in order to become a counselor. As a result, he now pays it forward and sees how expansion makes a positive impact in the lives of the clients he serves each and every day. “Without expansion, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Oliver explained.
Other speakers included a retired mother who, due to divorce, was finding it difficult to provide for the needs of her mentally ill son. Through expansion, he was able to receive in-home care, counseling, and prescription coverage. She now worries what might happen if he were to lose access to the program.
Next, a provider told the story of a patient of who had lost her job due to the recession. Being diabetic, she was unable to afford the high cost of her prescriptions and would wind up in the ER when the need arose. Because of expansion, her diabetes is now under control and she has since re-entered the workforce.
He also spoke of a male patient who, because of an illness (and no coverage), wound up in the ER where they found a spot on his lung. He eventually received assistance through expansion and started seeing his primary care physician. Fortunately, they found the spot in question hadn’t progressed and was treatable.
He also stressed the cost saving measures of expanded Medicaid, as exemplified by his patient stories; when people can’t afford to go to a primary care provider, especially for chronic conditions, they seek care from Emergency Rooms which ends up costing everyone more.
The rally was a chance for Ohioans affected by expansion to share their stories publicly, as well as for others to show their support for the hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who now have access to coverage thanks to expansion.
While each person’s experience with expansion is unique, one theme rings true among all the stories shared by yesterday’s speakers, as well as those stories shared by patients in exams rooms all across the state of Ohio, each and every day, and that is that expanded Medicaid saves lives.
If you are interested in helping advocate for quality affordable health coverage, sign up to be an advocate TODAY!
A big THANK YOU to Chuck for sharing his story!
BREAKING : Due to the commitment to advocacy in the past several days from Ohioans all across the state in the form of calls, emails, tweets, and more, as well as the presence at yesterday’s rally, the Ohio House of Representatives has decided to forego overriding Governor Kasich’s veto of the expansion freeze. While the discussion of an override is “pending” and there is talk of the Ohio House bringing the conversation back up this fall, it all indications are that your voice has been heard. Strong advocacy works and you all are to thank for making a difference in the lives of not only the patients and clients of CCH and TCC but those of Ohioans all across the state.
In the past few days, and even hours, there have been substantial changes within the healthcare arena. Due to the fast moving nature of both the state and federal legislative bodies, it’s critical that our advocates take the few short minutes required to respond to both Calls to Action below.
The state budget is close to being decided upon and it’s not pretty. In its current state, the budget calls for a freeze on enrollment of the expanded group come July 1, 2018. This means, no new enrollees into the expanded category after said date, even if they would have qualified prior. Furthermore, new requirements for the program would exclude unemployed individuals actively seeking work and those seeking addiction treatment services but on waitlists from gaining access to affordable coverage. It’s critical that you take action and alert your state legislators about the dangers of the proposed budget TODAY!
On the federal side, the newest version of the AHCA has been released and, again, it’s not looking good. The plans, at present, are to phase out expansion dollars within four years and capping the amount of money states would receive per Medicaid enrollee. This would mean upwards of one million Ohioans, alone, being cut from the program. Again, it’s critically important advocates take the time to alert Senators Brown and Portman of the danger millions will face if the bill is enacted in its current form.
Again, we need “All Hands on Deck” responding to these alerts if we are going to effectively fight for the right that no one goes without coverage or so that no one has to make the decision to feed their family over filling prescriptions for their chronic illnesses. Please share with your friends and family and ask for their support. And don’t forget to ask yourselves, “What happens tomorrow when millions of Ohioans lose their coverage.”
We wanted to share with you, earlier today the US House of Representatives voted to move the American Health Care Act (AHCA) to the US Senate for further consideration. While the bill has passed its first step, there is still a process it must undergo before becoming law. At present, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is still in place. Compass will continue to provide our patients with quality affordable care and assist the community with Medicaid and Marketplace applications. We will also continue to advocate to ensure all of our patients have access to comprehensive affordable health coverage. We welcome and appreciate as many advocates as are willing to help us in our efforts. You can sign up here.
Ask Senator Portman to #valueCHCs by Signing the Wicker-Stabenow Health Center Funding Letter
Senators Roger Wicker (R- MS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) are continuing to circulate a letter in the U.S. Senate in support of Community Health Centers in the FY18 Appropriations Process. Click here to email, tweet, post, or call Senator Portman and ask that he sign. There are only 5 days left until the deadline – act now before April 26.
And don’t forget to sign up to be a health center advocate TODAY! This will help keep you up-to-date on issues and policy changes affecting your healthcare and gives you the opportunity to make your voice a part of the discussions and decisions to come.