If Republicans and Democrats can agree on anything when it comes to health care it should be to continue to fund the local health centers that benefit needy urban and rural residents of northwest Ohio.
Funding for the Community Health Center Fund has across-the-board support. Republicans, such as U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) voted in December on an extension of funding. The extension runs out in March.
Care for 700,000 people statewide is threatened by the continued holdup in federal funding. As The Blade’s Lauren Lindstrom reported Monday, Community Health Center Fund expired Sept. 30 and has not been reauthorized.
The uncertainty is uncalled for.
Republicans may have been keeping the funding for the Community Health Center Fund as a bargaining chip to help bring Democrats into an agreement to avoid another government shutdown. The last government shutdown ended after the Children’s Health Insurance Program was extended for six years as part of the continuing resolution to end the brief shutdown in January.
That’s not fair to the community centers, which need a better sense of permanence. It’s not fair to the people they serve either.
Rural and urban Ohio have enough trouble maintaining population as it is. The health centers are located in medically under-served areas and are required to treat people regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. They provide provide a one-stop shop for family medicine, dental, vision, behavioral health, and pharmacy.
One of the counties served is Ohio’s Hardin County. The clinic in the county seat, Kenton, performs 2,000 primary care visits every month.
Janis Sunderhaus, CEO of Health Partners of Western Ohio, which operated that site and 12 others in places such as Lima, Bryan, Defiance, and Tiffin, asks: “Where the heck were they getting care before?”
And where will those 2,000 get care without the community health centers?
Established through the Affordable Care Act, the Community Health Center Fund distributed $3.6 billion last year to clinics and health centers across the country.
Funding for the health centers is one piece of Affordable Care Act that has majority, in fact near universal approval. Congress should support and uphold this fund, and narrow the dispute over health care to areas of true disagreement.
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