At any minute now, the fate of community health centers across the country and the Rio Grande Valley will be decided, as Congress votes to pass a budget that would fund clinics.
On January 7, dozens of people dressed in red filled the New Horizon Medical Center in solidarity for community health centers.
“We’ve been waiting for congress to get their act together and do their regular business,” said Dr. Elena Marin, Executive Director of Su Clinica Familiar.
Over 70% of federal funding for the health centers program comes from the Health Centers Fund, three years ago Congress extended the fund on a bipartisan basis, but that fund expired in October.
“Community Health Centers in general will continue to fight to get the funding that we need in order to exist and in some instances even grow,” said Paula Gomez, Executive Director of New Horizon Medical Center.
Patient after patient testified why they need affordable health centers, which maintain an open door policy that allows patients without insurance to receive sliding scale fees based on their income.
“Many do not have anywhere else to go, their diabetes will get worse, they will wind up in the emergency rooms in the hospitals and many will die unnecessarily,” Marin said.
“We have to remember that this is a critically Important program of the federal government,” she said.
Earlier this week, the House passed a bill that would allow community health centers to exist for two years with level funding.
“Level funding means not more but not less than what we’re currently getting,” Gomez said.
Without a long term budget solution, 9 million patients who rely on community health centers could lose access to primary and preventative care.