CHCs need extension of Community Health Center Fund, telehealth payment parity, supplemental COVID-19-related funding

AUSTIN, TX, August 21, 2020 /24-7PressRelease/ — The U.S. Congress is likely to take up a U.S. Postal Service funding bill within days. Texas’ community health centers are encouraging the addition of critical funding to the bill to support their work to continue providing COVID-19 testing, telehealth, and ongoing preventive, primary, dental, and behavioral health care to more than 1.6 million Texans in rural and urban communities across the state.

“Just as routine, dependable mail delivery is an essential part of Americans’ lives, so is regular preventive and primary health care,” said Jana Eubank, executive director, Texas Association of Community Health Centers. “Community health centers are that source of care for more than 1.6 million Texans, including children and veterans. We can’t allow that funding to lapse, especially in the current environment where getting and staying healthy has never been more crucial.”

Without Congressional action to extend the Community Health Center Fund before Nov. 30, Texas’ 73 community health centers will lose $183 million, jeopardizing access to primary, chronic, behavioral health, substance use, vision, and dental care. The loss will cause some CHCs to close and others to eliminate essential services, such as behavioral health care and substance use treatment. Others could lose critical workforce members, which can be difficult to replace, particularly in rural communities.

The Community Health Center Fund was established in 2010. Originally authorized for five years, it since has been reauthorized only in short-term increments, most recently for six months through November. Currently, there is no legislative vehicle for CHCF extension beyond November.

“Short-term extensions undermine CHCs’ ability to plan appropriately, hire and retain the necessary workforce, and invest in capital improvements,” said Eubank. “Five-year extension of the Community Health Center Fund is absolutely critical for CHCs to continue their COVID-19 work, including testing and tracing, and their work to help our most vulnerable Texans achieve and maintain good health.”

Texas CHCs are also encouraging lawmakers to appropriate supplemental funding to offset COVID-19 expenses and losses and to pay for telehealth services at the same amount as for in-person visits.

Texas’ CHCs provide care to anyone, regardless of ability to pay. They have been instrumental in serving their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, conducting drive through and walk-up testing and quickly implementing telehealth. Since April, Texas’ CHCs have performed 250,000 COVID-19 diagnostic tests. In many communities, CHCs are also a vital part of the local economy. While unemployment numbers have grown as a result of COVID-19, Texas CHCs have largely avoided layoffs, providing economic stability to vulnerable communities, while caring for a growing number of uninsured Texans who have lost their jobs and health insurance.

Formed in 1983, the Texas Association of Community Health Centers, Inc. (TACHC) is a private, non-profit membership association that represents Texas safety-net health care providers. TACHC is the federally designated primary care association for the state and is the link between federal, state and local entities providing health care for Texas’ most vulnerable populations. TACHC members include community health centers, federally designated migrant, public housing and homeless health care centers, health center networks and other providers who strive to meet the health care needs of the uninsured and underserved. Members operate in urban, rural and frontier areas of Texas with annual budgets ranging from $600,000 to over $50 million. TACHC’s services assist members in providing high quality health care and addressing specific needs of administrators, clinicians, boards of directors, outreach workers and other center staff. TACHC offers a wide variety of services targeted specifically toward the needs of Texas health centers in policy & advocacy, administration, information technology and clinical care.

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