If the Community Health Center Fund is not restored, millions of patients served by community health centers may lose access to healthcare and up to 161,000 jobs could be lost in communities across the country.
That's the conclusion of an analysis produced by the Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative at the George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health.
The analysis is the first to look at what might happen nationwide if Congress fails to renew the Community Health Center Fund, which expired Sept. 30. In 2016, these health centers served 26 million people at nearly 10,000 locations.
Serving as a safety net for medically underserved communities, the current delays in funding have already caused major problems for community health centers, and further delays could prove devastating -- not just for the facilities themselves, but other workers and businesses that may be affected.
The analysis addresses the state-level economic and employment consequences that would occur if the Community Health Center Fund is not renewed.
For one, community health centers' ability to provide care to underserved patients will be seriously compromised if the $3.6 billion cut in funding isn't immediately restored. Nine million patients, a third of those currently served, may lose care.
And as many as 76,000 to 161,000 jobs could be lost nationwide in 2018. About two-fifths of jobs lost would be in healthcare, but the majority would be workers in other sectors, such as retail, construction and other fields.
State economies would be shortchanged by $7.4 to $15.6 billion in 2018.
Because health centers are located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories, substantial losses would occur in all areas and could be especially severe in states that did not expand Medicaid, according to the analysis. Community health centers are nonprofit organizations that operate at low margins; without restored funding they would be forced to downsize staff, reduce their purchasing of goods and services, curtail services or even shut down clinical sites.
The impact could be especially pronounced in areas hard hit by the recent hurricanes, like Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. Displaced community health center patients with no health insurance in those places, and in other parts of the country, will have fewer options for health care, the report said.