Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey has placed blame on Congressional Republicans for a lapse in funding that has put community health centers in jeopardy.
“It is unfathomable that Republican leadership has allowed these historically bipartisan investments in public health to lapse,” said Lowey, a Democrat who represents Rockland County and portions of Westchester.
Last month, Congress failed to reauthorize the Community Health Centers Fund by its Sept. 30 expiration date. Nationally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the funding cutoff will lead to the closing of as many as 2,800 health center locations and a loss of access to care for nearly 9 million patients.
Without reauthorization, Lowey said that as many as 16,000 residents of New York’s 17th Congressional District could lose access to care.
The funding accounts for about 70 percent of the $6 million in federal funding received by Open Door Family Medical Centers, which operates cost-effective health care practices in Westchester and Putnam counties and serves 55,000 patients each year.
Lindsay Farrell, president and CEO of Open Door, said the Community Health Centers Fund is the company’s “core grant program.” Since the funding deadline was missed, Open Door has undergone a hiring freeze, and the loss of funding could lead to the medical center restricting services or laying off staff.
“Open Door and community health centers across the country have demonstrated that it’s possible to provide high-quality health care in a cost-effective setting,” Farrell said. “This is particularly important to low-income people and those without health insurance.”
During a visit to Open Door’s Port Chester facility on Oct. 20, Lowey called for an immediate extension of funding for community health centers, along with the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which also expired on Sept. 30. At Open Door, 3,300 children who are covered through the program could lose their health coverage as a result of its expiration.
“By allowing authorization to lapse, Congressional Republicans have created uncertainty for centers such as Open Door that are worried about whether they will continue to receive federal investments to provide health care to low-income Americans,” Lowey said.
There is some hope for community health centers like Open Door, however. Lowey is co-sponsoring the bipartisan Community Health Investment, Modernization and Excellence Act, which would extend authorization for community health centers and increase funding annually for five years.
“We’re grateful to Congresswoman Lowey for supporting renewed federal funding, and we’re confident that on this healthcare issue, bipartisan support truly exists,” Farrell said. “Time is of the essence, however, and we urge Congress to act quickly.”