Statement from the National HCH Council: Congress Must Act Now to Extend Health Center Funding

Patient and ClinicianHealth Care for the Homeless (HCH) programs depend on Health Center funding. As Health Centers serving a special population, HCH programs provide high-quality, comprehensive primary care, behavioral health care, case management, outreach, and other needed services to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness. On October 1, the Community Health Center Fund expired, which accounts for 70% of federal funding for Health Centers. These drastic cuts will start to go into effect in January unless Congress acts to continue funding.

On November 3, the House passed the CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act, which extends Community Health Center funding for 2 years. While this is an important step to continue funding for vital health care services for millions of vulnerable Americans, unfortunately the bill funds Health Centers at the expense of other vital safety net programs, such as the Prevention and Public Health Fund.

Congress must act now to extend the Health Center Fund on a long-term basis—without gutting other areas of the safety net to do so. We call on Congress to reject funding approaches that include destructive cuts and move forward instead with the CHIME Act (S.1899 in the Senate and H.R. 3770 in the House). The CHIME Act calls for a 5-year extension that would provide longer-term stability for Community Health Center funding without making harmful cuts to the existing safety net.

10 Important Things to Know about HCH Programs, Patients, and Health Center Funding

  1. Although all Health Centers provide care to very low-income people, the Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) program provides targeted funding to expand care in order to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.
  2. In 2016, there were 295 HCH programs nationally with over 3,000 locations.
  3. Collectively, these programs served 934,174 unique patients.
  4. The vast majority (85%) of patients without homes are living in poverty and stay in emergency shelters, transitional or supportive housing programs, doubled up with friends or family, or sleep in their cars, on the street, under bridges, in parks, and other areas not intended for human habitation.
  5. People without homes have high rates of chronic and acute disease, behavioral health conditions, and other needs that make them particularly vulnerable to poor health, disability, and early death.
  6. HCH programs in all states rely on the Health Center funding grants to care for vulnerable people, as many services are not reimbursable through insurance coverage.
  7. In states that did not expand Medicaid, 69% of HCH patients are uninsured; hence, Health Centers in these areas especially rely on Health Center funding because there are few other funding sources.
  8. HCH programs are required to offer substance abuse treatment services, making them a vital safety net provider in the face of a national opioid epidemic.
  9. HCH Health Centers provide high-quality, integrated care that prevents emergency room visits and inpatient hospitalizations, thus saving tax-payer funding and delivering better patient outcomes.
  10. Clinicians and other service providers at HCH programs frequently help very vulnerable people retain housing through supportive services, preventing them from experiencing homelessness again.

We call on the HCH Community to communicate the importance of Health Center funding to their members of Congress. Contact your Senators and Representative via Twitter, email, phone, and/or schedule an in-person meeting. Use the points above, as well as local perspectives that illustrate the jobs, patient care, and community benefits that are at stake with this funding. For more resources or for assistance contacting your member of Congress visit our partner site, Health Center Advocacy Network, or contact Regina Reed, Health Policy Organizer, at 443-703-1337 or rreed@nhchc.org.

About the National Health Care for the Homeless Council

The National Health Care for the Homeless Council is a network of doctors, nurses, social workers, patients, and advocates who share the mission to eliminate homelessness. Since 1986 we have been the leading organization to call for comprehensive health care and secure housing for all. We produce leading research in the field and provide the highest level of training and resources related to care for persons experiencing homelessness. We collaborate with government agencies and private institutions in order to solve complex problems associated with homelessness. Additionally, we provide support to more than 200 public health centers and Health Care for the Homeless programs in all 50 states. Learn more at www.nhchc.org.