A loss of federal funding for the seven centers in Nebraska would have a noticeable impact.
Health Center Association of Nebraska CEO Amy Behnke says the funding in question for the state is about $13.2 million.
“Our health centers have about a 50 percent uninsured rate, so these federal dollars that come in, that right now need to be reauthorized, helps fund the care for that uninsured population,” Behnke tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Uninsured patients pay on a sliding scale, but none are turned away.
“All seven of Nebraska’s health centers provide medical care, dental care, and behavioral healthcare under one roof,” Behnke explains. “There’s a potential that some of those services may have to be limited. There are some hiring freezes that have been instituted already.”
Kenny McMorris, CEO of Charles Drew Health Center in Omaha, says he and his staff are already looking at their options without the funding.
“In our particular case, we’ve looked at contingency plans that include the reduction of hours, the possibility of closing sites, the consolidation of some unique services,” McMorris tells Nebraska Radio Network.
In 2015, the state’s community health centers had nearly 44,000 visits with patients who have a chronic condition. Nearly 50,000 visits were for behavioral health issues.
McMorris says a reduction in care at the centers, due to funding cuts, will put the burden on hospitals.
“You’re going to see a lot of patients who are really experiencing suffering – and even dealing with the opiate crisis – that in a lot of these cases they can be dealt with in an outpatient setting,” he says, “now they’re going to become dire and going to have to be dealt with in an emergency room.”
Behnke says the state’s congressional delegation supports the federal funding reauthorization, but she is urging supporters to contact their representatives and state officials about the importance of funding community health centers.
Nebraska’s community health centers serve more than 75,000 patients each year.
A temporary funding measure for community health centers expires in early March.
AUDIO: Mike Loizzo reports [:43]