Scarce community clinic funds strain hospital emergency rooms

The Obama Administration drastically slashed reform-related funding for community clinics, which will likely continue placing some burden of caring for low-income patients on hospital emergency rooms, reports Kaiser Health News.

Just 67 nonprofit organizations received $29 million from the Obama Administration to help expand their services as part of healthcare reform. It was a fraction of the $250 million expected by more than 800 organizations and clinics that applied for funding. The cut was part of a deal struck by Congress in March to avert a government shutdown by cutting overall spending levels by more than $80 billion.

In some instances that means clinics will continue to have waiting times as long as two months to secure an appointment. Such delays often drive patients into local hospital ERs instead for care.

"We are now one year closer to 2014 when all the new coverage expansion kicks in," said Dan Hawkins, senior vice president of the National Association of Community Health Centers. "But where are those people going to go to get care? We need to make sure they have a place to go."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, which oversees community health centers, said that future plans to expand remain in limbo due to the possibility of further spending cuts down the line.

For more information:
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- read the HRSA plan for community clinics and healthcare reform