The beginning of the year has been busy for America’s health centers and their 28 million patients!
Several bills were introduced in the Senate to extend the Community Health Center Fund for 5 years and provide support for workforce expansions at health centers. These legislative efforts represent a critical step forward in our efforts to secure long-term and predictable funding for community health centers.
The bipartisan legislation, the Community Health Improvement, Modernization, and Excellence (CHIME) Act, introduced by Senators Roy Blunt (R – MO) and Debbie Stabenow (D – MI) would provide reliable and dependable funding for the nation’s more than 1,400 health centers, extending the Community Health Centers Fund (CHCF) for an additional five years and increasing funding steadily over time to $5 billion in 2024. This effort is designed to prevent a lapse of the Community Health Centers Fund, which is currently set to expire on September 30, 2019. It would also extend funding for the National Health Service Corps for an additional five years, helping bolster the primary care workforce in underserved areas of the country.
Federal 340B Drug Discount Program
More good news for health centers participating in the Federal 340B Drug Discount Program. Recently, CVS-Caremark indicated it is cancelling its plans to reduce reimbursement rates for pharmacies owned by health centers and other 340B providers starting on April 1, 2019. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Manager (PBM) states it heard from many safety net providers about how the cuts would severely impact their ability to care for medically underserved patients, and “After consideration of these conversations, CVS-Caremark has decided not to move forward with the implementation of the new reimbursement rates scheduled to become effective April 1, 2019.” Health centers who participate with CVS-Caremark should receive a copy of this notice within the next several days.
Last June, The Trump administration proposed new regulations for Title X and opened a comment period where thousands of health centers and their patients submitted public comment on how harmful the new proposal could be to care. This week, the Trump Administration posted the regulations for the Title X family planning program on the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Population Affairs website. The timeline for implementation will kick-off when the regulations are posted in the Federal Register, which is expected to happen in the coming days. The proposed changes to the program could devastate Title X networks and delay access to essential health services for the low-income patients served across the states each year. The Trump administration's harmful regulations represent some of the most extreme policy changes proposed since Title X was established by Congress in 1970.
The regulations largely mirror the proposal released in June of last year and will:
- Deny women information about all of their health options
- Delay patient access to essential reproductive health care
- Disrupt the provider-patient relationship
- Deter teens from accessing care
- Divert resources to groups that do not provide a broad range of birth control methods
- Disproportionately affect communities of color
- Reverse the progress we've made in reducing unintended pregnancy rates
Health centers are trusted providers in their communities. Maintaining this trust requires patients are confident they are receiving comprehensive, medically-informed and accurate information from their health care providers at all times.
Whether it is good or bad news, one thing remains constant for health centers: The Need to Advocate! Health centers, their business partners, their patients and their supporters need to speak with a unified voice to their elected representatives to support measures that increase access and coverage for care and oppose any barriers placed against gaining quality, comprehensive health care.