Last fall, Kim Wagenaar started to plan how she would close the health clinic she runs in rural North Carolina — when Congress let funding lapse for thousands of centers like hers 124 days ago and counting.
The Cabarrus Rowan Community Health Center offers primary care services to patients, largely uninsured and unable to afford visits elsewhere. Its four buildings, scattered across suburban Charlotte and more rural areas to the north, do not suffer from low demand. They saw more than 8,000 patients last year alone.
“I’m usually a very optimistic person,” Wagenaar says. “I always feel like the community health centers have great support. But I’ll be honest, this is the first time I’m not 100 percent sure this will get fixed.”
Nationally, millions of Americans visit community health centers each year. An estimate from 2016 found the 2,000 centers provided care to 26.5 million people. They rely heavily on federal funds that have passed with bipartisan support in recent decades. George W. Bush expanded the program, and the Affordable Care Act made another big investment in them.
But this fall, the $3.6 billion budget lapsed at the same time as the Children’s Health Insurance Program. CHIP, which provides coverage to millions of poor children, just got its funding back in late January. But community health centers were not included in the deal.
Legislators from both parties have said they want to extend the health centers’ budget. But so far, they haven’t. If they don’t do it very soon, health care access will decline for potentially millions of vulnerable Americans.
This will really stick it to the neoliberal order!
If you wonder why I talk so much about why consumerist wank voting is bad, it’s because elections are literally a matter of life and death. Simple as that.