Yesterday’s action by Congress brings some good news, some bad news, and a bunch more uncertainty. Over 110 days after federal funds expired, the US Senate finally voted to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for the next six years. This decision was a part of a procedural vote in the Senate to reopen the government after a three-day shutdown. We expect that the US House and President will support this extension as well.
While we are encouraged by Congress’s decision to fund health coverage for kids, the Continuing Resolution is moving without the essential funding for community health centers in Montana, and Congress addressed funding for the federal government was only in the short-term. Congress will again be back dealing with this by February 8th. In Montana, we are deeply concerned about the life-threatening consequences that these short-term decisions have on our community health centers, which have also been left hanging without funding for over 110 days.
Community health centers are non-profit health care organizations that provide access to quality, affordable, and comprehensive primary and preventive medical, dental, and mental health, as well as substance use disorder care. They are particularly unique because they ensure access to underserved, underinsured and uninsured people. And as the CEO of Community Health Partners in Bozeman, Lander Cooney, said “‘underserved’ means most of the state.”
Over a month ago, the Montana Primary Care Association (MPCA) penned this guest blog imploring Congress to fix the funding cliff and fund community health centers. Still, there has been no fix.
Community health centers are important for rural communities where they may be the only facility providing basic health care services to families. There are 17 Centers with over 40 sites in Montana providing care to over 106,000 Montanans. However, these week-to-week budgets are putting centers’ funding in question and could lead to centers shutting down and limiting services.
We urge the Montana delegation to support a better budget for Montana’s people. Vote for permanent funding for community health centers, because our rural health care in Montana depends on it.
MBPC is a nonprofit organization focused on providing credible and timely research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues that impact low- and moderate-income Montana families.