Community Health Centers Essential During Coronavirus Pandemic, Blog Says

Community health centers provide essential health care services in rural and low-income communities. As a result, these health centers must be supported during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect public health, write GW Milken Institute School of Public Health researchers in a new blog.

The blog, published in the journal Health Affairs, examines the support community health centers have received so far during the COVID-19 pandemic and what else can be done. Congress has provided $1.32 billion for COVID-19 response under the CARES Act in addition to $100 million already appropriated under the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act. The Community Health Centers Fund, which was set to expire in mid-May, is now extended through the end of November.

The authors say that while these are good steps to protect the health centers, these community health centers are facing a shortage of patients in need of other types of health care. This may lead to decreased revenue, which could force health centers to lay off staff and close doors. In the blog, they suggest several steps that Congress can take to keep health centers strong during the pandemic, including a fund to support public health care providers, additional funding for community health centers and other mid-sized nonprofit organizations, and emergency assistance through Medicaid policy changes.

“Health centers are very much at frontline of severe illness,” the authors write. “They serve the poor, those with underlying health issues, and the uninsured. Expanding eligibility for financial protections, increasing funding amounts, and expediting health center payments are key to ensuring health centers and other essential providers survive and recover from the outbreak.”

The blog, “Keeping Community Health Centers Strong During the Coronavirus Pandemic is Essential to Public Health,” was published April 10 in Health Affairs.