HHS hands out $727M to upgrade community health centers

The Department of Health and Human Services has awarded more than $727 million in grants from the Affordable Care Act to help upgrade 143 community health centers, according to an announcement made earlier today by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The funds will support construction and renovation of community health centers around the country and extend access to another 745,000 underserved patients, according to an HHS press release.

The community health centers will help Americans who have lost coverage or are between jobs still get healthcare services, according to Sebelius. "There is no question that the economic downturn has made it harder for some Americans to get healthcare and important preventive services," she said.

The move also has the potential of lightening the burden placed on stressed out emergency departments that have been serving as safety nets, often offering non-emergency care to the indigent.

The largest share of health center patients are not insured (38 percent), 37 percent are on Medicaid, 15 percent have private insurance and 7 percent are on Medicare, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The funds were made available under the healthcare reform law, which is expected to provide $11 billion over the next five years to community health centers. The funds will go toward operating, expanding and building community health centers, nearly doubling the number of patients who can receive care, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay.

To learn more:
- read the HHS press release
- see the Health Resources and Services Administration's site on health centers
- here's a state by state list of Recovery Act investments in community health centers
- here's how to find a community health center in your area

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