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Community Health Centers Brace for Cuts in State Funding in 2012

By Jane Norman, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

December 9, 2011 -- Community health center advocates say they’re facing a tough financial outlook for the coming year, with a 15 percent drop in state funding expected in 2012.

A report by the National Association of Community Health Centers says it’s a continuation of a trend, that centers have already felt the impact of funding cuts. There have been clinic closures in California and Colorado due to reductions in state funds this year, the report says.

In other states, clinics are open fewer hours, preventive care programs have been cut back and hiring or salary freezes, reductions in benefits and layoffs instituted.

The report says that centers will receive $335 million from states in 2012, which is $60 million less in state funds than in 2011.

Centers are funded by the federal and state governments, though states are not required to take part and 15 don’t provide any financial assistance. The centers are regarded as a pivotal part of the health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) and received increased federal funding through the law. But advocates say most cannot survive without state money as well.

The centers are mandated to serve any person who seeks care, which makes them a draw for people lacking health insurance or with inadequate coverage. Funding cuts at the state level “greatly reduce health centers’ capacity to serve the increasing numbers of uninsured patients walking through their doors,” the report says.

In some states, the cuts are dramatic. In Washington, state funding was wiped out entirely following major cuts to public health programs due to the economic crunch.

In New Hampshire, the state appropriation will drop from $4.3 million to $2.3 million. In New York, it will decline from $53 million to $39.7 million. And in Alaska, there’s an 80 percent decrease projected, from $7 million to $1.4 million.

Among the 35 states that allocate state money to centers, 19 will cut funding in 2012 compared with 2011 and centers in six states will experience declines of 30 percent or more. However, six states will increase funding and Wyoming will direct money to community health centers for the first time, the report says. In the other states, funding will stay the same. State lawmakers in Texas are still negotiating funding levels.

Report on Community Health Centers (pdf)

Jane Norman can be reached at [email protected].  

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