U.S. Senate's Help Committee Approves Hatch Community Health Centers Proposal
The United States Senate's committee on health, education, labor and pensions has unanimously approved Orrin Hatch's health centers renewal bill.
The bipartisan legislation reauthorizes the federal health centers program, which grants access to affordable health care via community health centers to low-income and underserved patients. The bill has 49 co-sponsors.
"With the HELP committee's approval and the overwhelming support from so many of my colleagues - fully half the Senate - I am confident that this bill will pass," said Hatch. "I have long said that community health centers are the safety net for more than 15 million underserved Americans and I am gratified that so many of my colleagues agree."
Established 40 years ago, the program placed community health centers in medically underserved areas to provide care to people with limited or no access to insurance. Senate Bill 3771 would reauthorize the program for two years.
"These centers are worth every cent that the federal government invests in them," added Hatch. "They save lives. They provide preventive health care that keeps people out of hospitals. By reauthorizing this program, we will allow health centers to provide low-cost health care to many more uninsured and under insured individuals."
In 2005, Utah's 24 community health centers served more than 85,000 patients and provided almost 305,000 visits. Of the Utah patients, 96 percent lived below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Congress has increased funding accordingly since 2001 to provide service to four million additional patients and has added new or expanded facilities in more than 750 communities nationwide.
In Carbon and Emery counties, three health centers may be able to benefit from the renewal. The centers include the Carbon Medical Service Association in East Carbon, the Helper Clinic and the Green River Medical Center.
"We are so appreciative of Senator Hatch's leadership in obtaining reauthorization of the health center program," said Bette Vierra, executive director of the Association for Utah Community Health. "Care received at health centers ranks among the most cost-effective and reauthorization assures continued access to quality, affordable health care to more than 85,000 Utahns."
S-3771 is ready to be considered by the full U.S. Senate.