Under the Obama administration, one thing is unlikely to change: growing support for federally funded community help centers.
The New York Times reports, President Bush has doubled federal financing for clinics which serve the poor and underinsured in urban neighborhoods and rural counties where health care is lacking.
On Bush’s watch, 1,200 or more centers were opened or expanded and the number of patients served grew to nearly 16 million at 7,354 sites, the largest expansion since the clinics were created during the Johnson administration, the NYT says.
But with the number of uninsured likely to grow as unemployment rates continue to rise, the demand for clinics is likely to keep growing.
And so is federal funding. President-elect Obama was one of the sponsors the, Access for All America Act, in August that backers say would more than quadruple federal spending on the program – from $2.1 billion to $8 billion – and increase incentives for medical students to choose primary care.
For people in urban neighborhoods and isolated rural areas, the clinics are often the only dependable providers of basic services including prenatal care, cancer treatments, childhood immunizations, sexually transmitted diseases and asthma treatments.
As a vital component of the health safety net, they are lauded as cost-effective alternatives to hospital emergency rooms, where the underinsured and uninsured often seek care.
Large areas of the country still remain without access to affordable primary care despite the clinics’ exceptional growth. The recession has only increased the need as hundreds of thousands of Americans have recently lost their employer-sponsored health care insurance when they lost their jobs.
Democrats on Capitol Hill suggest even more increases, making the centers a likely feature of any health care deal that is struck by Congress and the Obama administration.
Currently, the feds spend in excess of $2 billion a year to subsidize the clinics. #