'Catastrophic' Congress fails to reauthorize Tenn. health-clinic funding

Oct 6, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC (OSBORNE)  --  Congress has allowed a number of aid programs that provide health care to tens of thousands of low income Tennesseans to expire.

 

The 180 plus federally qualified community health centers operating in Tennessee lost roughly 70 percent of their funding at the end of September.

 

A patient is examined at Mercy Community Healthcare Health Center in Franklin.
Credit E.R. West

  Kathy Wood-Dobbins with the Tennessee Primary Care Association says if Congress doesn’t reauthorize the funding by the time the clinics reach the end of their current fiscal budgets, the impact on the state will be catastrophic.

 

“There’s about 219,000 patients that could lose their care, about 1,300 jobs could be lost, (and) about $135 million in revenue for economically stressed Tennessee communities could be foregone.”

 

Wood-Dobbins says health care administrators always get a bit anxious when budget negotiations roll around each year, but she says this time it feels different.

 

“We’ve never gone this far, we’ve never gone over the cliff where we’ve started a federal fiscal year without any determined plan for funding.”

 

Wood-Dobbins says the Association has spoken with Tennessee's Congressional delegation about the need to get the programs reauthorized. She says they all agree the funding is important.

 

“We need more than expressed support. We need to see that there is, in fact, funding for community health centers in the budget.

 

Congress also failed to reauthorize a program that provides health insurance to 73,000 low-income Tennessee children. A state spokesperson says funds on hand will keep that program operating through spring.