I’m sure many of you have heard about the potential cuts to health care programs, including community health centers. Many of you might be getting the urgent appeals from the National Association of Community Health Centers to contact your elected officials and urge them to protect funding for community health centers.
I thought it would be a good idea to let you all know how all this could affect Piedmont Health Services (Piedmont Health). The bottom line is that the proposed cuts could have a huge impact on us, but we must and will find a way to continue to care for our patients.
While most of our revenue comes from health insurance and other sources, we do depend on federal grants to keep services affordable. So the potential cuts are a huge concern – 70 percent of the grant that supports community health centers at Piedmont Health and across the country would go away on Oct. 1, 2017.
Piedmont Health depends heavily on that grant, and our dependence will grow because of other changes. The grant was authorized six years ago as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which expanded health care coverage to millions of Americans. As many of you know, community health centers play a vital role in that expansion.
But the expansion did not proceed as planned. A key part of the expansion was expanding Medicaid to make more citizens eligible for that program. But the ACA was challenged in court and a Supreme Court ruling made the Medicaid changes optional. The majority of states decided to expand Medicaid, but some states – including North Carolina – opted not to expand Medicaid.
That meant that the ACA could not expand care as much as planned. Many of the people who would have been able to depend on Medicaid to pay for health care at Piedmont Health had the program been expanded in North Carolina could not do so.
We don’t turn anyone away at Piedmont Health, so we will continue to care for all even without the Medicaid expansion. But, without it, a greater percentage of our patients do not have health insurance. Almost half (47 percent) of our patients are not covered. This compares with an average uninsured rate of 27 percent for other community heath centers in North Carolina.
Piedmont Health is doing much more uncompensated care than our fellow community health centers; consequently, the federal community health center grant is extremely important to us.
Community health centers have received strong bipartisan support over the years. We have worked with federal officials – Republicans and Democrats alike. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have been regular attendees at our events and all appreciate the way we provide high-quality, affordable care by leveraging a relatively small amount of federal aid with innovative techniques and smart partnerships.
But just because everyone in Washington supports your cause doesn’t mean there’s enough funds to go around. We are working hard to get Congress to continue the community health center grant, but whatever happens, we will continue to serve all of our patients. We’re already hard at work figuring out how we will restore whatever funding we lose.
We really, really want to do all of the things we have been doing, and we will continue to work with our partners and with the community and with elected officials to make sure that our people continue to get care.
We know that the patients we serve are among the most vulnerable, and working together we will find a new way, if we have to, to continue caring for them because that’s what we do.