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Gianforte Urges House Action to Support Montana’s Community Health Centers

February 5, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte urged House Speaker Paul Ryan to ensure continued and predictable funding for community health centers that serve Montanans who rely on them for access to health care.

Gianforte and 103 of his colleagues wrote in a letter to Speaker Ryan, “We write to express our serious concerns over the expiration of the Community Health Centers Fund (CHCF), and to urge you to include a reauthorization of the fund as part of the next moving piece of legislation to be signed into law.”

The next moving piece of legislation to be signed into law is likely a short-term government funding bill that may be considered this week.

In closing, the members of Congress, including Gianforte, write, “The Community Health Center program is a worthwhile federal investment we can all be proud of. Thank you for your efforts to ensure sustainable and reliable funding for this vital program so community health centers can continue to provide high quality, affordable care to those who need it most.”

Gianforte will continue to press House leadership to reauthorize the Community Health Center program.

Gianforte has identified extending the program as “one of my top priorities.” He voted in November 2017 for legislation to reauthorize community health centers for two years and the Children’s Health Insurance Program for five. Following the bill’s passage in the House, Gianforte said, “This bill ensures our communities, particularly our rural ones, and thousands of Montana children continue to receive access to critical medical care. Today’s action in the House is an important step to safeguard Montana families’ access to the health care.”

The letter to Speaker Ryan follows and is available here with all cosigners included:

Dear Speaker Ryan,

We write to express our serious concerns over the expiration of the Community Health Centers Fund (CHCF), and to urge you to include a reauthorization of the fund as part of the next moving piece of legislation to be signed into law.

We know you are a strong supporter of community health centers and we share your concern about the disruptions they are currently facing as a result of going over the so-called “funding cliff” at the end of September 2017.

Community health centers across the United States have delivered affordable, accessible, and quality primary health care to patients, regardless of their ability to pay, for more than 50 years. They serve more than 27 million individuals in almost 10,000 urban and rural communities by caring for the whole person, bringing together medical and behavioral health with pharmacy services. As part of this work, they provide preventive care and cancer screenings, treat chronic conditions, and are on the forefront of helping fight the opioid epidemic. They also serve our nation’s veterans, providing care to over 330,000 veterans last year alone.

The CHCF accounts for 70 percent of community health centers’ federal grant funding and the lapse in reauthorization has led community health centers across the country to consider or begin taking steps to reduce their services, jeopardizing the care of some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has estimated that without reauthorized funding, approximately 2,800 health center sites would close, costing more than 50,000 jobs and endangering the health care of about 9 million patients.

The Community Health Center program is a worthwhile federal investment we can all be proud of. Thank you for your efforts to ensure sustainable and reliable funding for this vital program so community health centers can continue to provide high quality, affordable care to those who need it most.

Sincerely,

Background:

On December 21, 2017, the House and Senate passed a measure, which Gianforte voted for, that provides $550 million for community health center funding through March 2018. The president signed it into law the next day.

On November 3, 2017, Gianforte voted for the Championing Health Kids Act, which reauthorized community health centers for two years and CHIP for five. The measure passed the House 242-174 and awaits action in the Senate. At the time, Gianforte said,

“Extending funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and for our community health centers has been one of my top priorities. This bill ensures our communities, particularly our rural ones, and thousands of Montana children continue to receive access to critical medical care. Today’s action in the House is an important step to safeguard Montana families’ access to the health care, and I encourage the Senate to act with urgency to extend funding for CHIP and community health centers.”

On October 27, 2017, Gianforte and a bipartisan group of 154 other House members sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, encouraging them to work together on a five-year reauthorization of the Community Health Center program. The letter may be found here.

According to the National Association of Community Health Centers, Montana’s community health centers served 106,342 patients in 2016, of which 85 percent were at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

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