House to vote Tuesday on short-term spending bill that includes funding for community health centers

Washington DC National Capitol Building
A House bill includes two years of funding to support the country’s 1,400 community health centers, which provide basic healthcare to roughly 27 million low-income people. (Getty/lucky-photographer)

The House of Representatives made a plan on Tuesday to vote on a new short-term spending bill that would fund community health centers for two years as well as several other healthcare programs, but it doesn’t include language to protect young immigrants from deportation.

The stopgap measure would fund the government through March 23 to avert another partial shutdown like last month. But even if it passes the House, it’s unclear whether the proposal will get through the Senate because it includes longterm defense funding, something Democrats are unlikely to support. The government currently has enough money to stay in operation through Feb. 8.

Last month the government shut down for three days after the Senate failed to reach agreement on a short-term funding bill. Democrats finally relented after Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised to take up debate on immigration issues if the Senate hadn’t reached agreement on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provides protections for young immigrants brought to the country by their parents without proper documentation. So far the Senate has not come to agreement on immigration language.

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The House bill would provide funding for two years for community health centers, the National Health Services Corps., teaching health centers, a special diabetes program for Type 1 diabetes and the Independence at Home Medical Practice Demonstration Project. It would also modify the reductions in Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital payments and modify the Medicaid Third Party Liability rules to require other liable insurers to pay claims for prenatal services before Medicaid pays. And it permanently repeals the annual limit on per-patient therapy expenditures in Medicare (therapy caps).

The country’s 1,400 community health centers, which provide basic healthcare to roughly 27 million low-income people, have been left in limbo for months. Funding for the program will run out in March. If Congress fails to reach agreement, as many as 2,800 centers could close.

And the funding uncertainty has already caused 20% of health centers to institute a hiring freeze and 4% to lay off staff, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation report. So far most have not cut patient care services, but the report indicates that 4 in 10 centers may reduce services, such as case management or transportation services, if funding is not restored. More than a third expect to reduce dental, medical or mental health services.