Cuts, layoffs loom at Colorado community health centers as Congress stalls on funding renewal

Cuts, layoffs loom at Colorado community health centers as Congress stalls on funding renewal

Neighborhood well being facilities, which serve greater than 500,000 largely low-income sufferers a yr in Colorado, could possibly be pressured to make vital cuts except Congress renews their funding within the coming weeks.

The funding — about $63 million per yr in Colorado — lapsed final yr across the identical time as did cash for the Youngsters’s Well being Insurance coverage Program, which gives insurance coverage to children from low-income households. However, whereas Congress renewed funding for CHIP final week as a part of a deal to finish the federal authorities shutdown, it offered no answer for group well being facilities, the place many children on CHIP go to obtain care.

That creates what’s, for advocates of the facilities, the mind-boggling chance that the nation is about to lurch from one looming well being care disaster to a different, all as a result of Congress has not acted to reauthorize cash for what are extensively supported applications. Final yr, when the funding for the facilities first expired, dozens of members of Congress from each chambers despatched bi-partisan letters to management urging swift decision of the problem. Each member of Colorado’s congressional delegation helps extending the facilities’ funding, in line with the Colorado Neighborhood Well being Community.

“If these children don’t have anyplace to get their well being care, it’s actually pointless to offer them medical insurance,” U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat, mentioned Thursday at a information convention at Denver Well being’s Sam Sandos Westside Household Well being Heart.

Andy Cross, The Denver PostU.S. Rep. Diana DeGette discusses funding for group well being facilities throughout press convention on the Denver Well being Sam Sandos Westside Well being Heart Jan. 25, 2018.Colorado has 20 group well being facilities that present providers at greater than 200 areas, in each city and rural areas. The facilities primarily serve low-income households, lots of whom are on Medicaid or Medicare — which pay suppliers notoriously low charges for his or her care. Different sufferers on the facilities are uninsured.

To assist the facilities keep afloat, the federal authorities has for years offered more money to the facilities. Over the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years, Congress approved $three.6 billion from a particular fund to go to the facilities nationwide. However that fund expired on the finish of September. Since then, cash has been offered on a short-term foundation, however that may run out in March.

“We’re not sure if there’s going to be funding in any respect previous March,” mentioned Polly Anderson, the vice chairman of technique and financing for the Colorado Neighborhood Well being Community.

The instability is already having an impression at group well being facilities throughout Colorado.

In Denver, about one-third of kids obtain their medical care by way of one among Denver Well being’s community for group well being facilities, mentioned Robin Wittenstein, Denver Well being’s CEO. However uncertainty over how a lot cash can be accessible for the facilities sooner or later has Denver Well being shifting extra cautiously in its plans to increase providers.

And if the cash doesn’t come by way of, Wittenstein mentioned Denver Well being will in all probability have to chop again on employees and providers on the facilities, although that might imply sufferers would obtain extra expensive care within the emergency room relatively than cheaper main care on the facilities.

“It’s going to have an effect on well being standing long-term and well being value long-term,” she mentioned.

Requested which providers are most weak to cuts, Dr. Steve Federico, Denver Well being’s director of normal pediatrics, gave the instance of a 2-year-old who’s gradual to start out speaking. Presently, that youngster can be eligible for speech remedy applications at dwelling. These won’t survive if Congress doesn’t present more cash, he mentioned.

“Medication is now a staff sport, and these funds are what permit us to create that staff,” he mentioned.

The issues don’t simply exist in Denver.

In Colorado’s mountain cities, dwelling to a few of the nation’s highest well being care prices, group well being facilities are sometimes the one choices accessible for low-income households to obtain main care, mentioned Garry Schalla, the event director at Mountain Household Well being Facilities. His middle has eight totally different areas — from Edwards to Parachute — and serves 19,000 individuals a yr, offering all the pieces from physician check-ups to dental care to behavioral well being providers.

The annual funds for the middle is $18 million, he mentioned. The federal funding cuts might take away $three million of that, he mentioned.

“There must be some powerful choices made,” he mentioned.

That might imply reducing again on providers or consolidating areas, he mentioned.

However already the cuts have prompted a virtually 10 % discount within the middle’s employees. When the funding wasn’t renewed, Schalla mentioned the middle made the choice to remove 15 positions, most by way of attrition however the previous couple of by way of layoffs, “due to not figuring out what was going to occur.”

“We have been ready to try this,” he mentioned. “But it surely undoubtedly put our employees and our capability to serve our sufferers in our group the way in which we need to in a very precarious place.”