Menendez Holds Roundtable with NJ Health Center Leaders Wrestling with Potential 70% Funding Cuts

Menendez Holds Roundtable with NJ Health Center Leaders Wrestling with Potential 70% Funding Cuts

Federal funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers expires this month unless Congress reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program

   

NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today held a roundtable discussion with leaders of some of New Jersey’s leading health centers to discuss and address their concerns regarding the Health Center Funding Cliff.  Unless Congress acts, the National Health Center Program faces a 70% reduction in funding by Sept. 30 when federal funding provided through the Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) expires. If left unaddressed, the funding cliff could mean the nationwide closure of 2,800 Health Center sites, cost more than 50,000 jobs and lead to the loss of access to care for more than 9 million patients.

 “Today, I assured New Jersey’s health center leaders that I will continue to be unwavering in my commitment to providing affordable, quality care to those in need,” said Sen. Menendez. “To let this necessary funding lapse would be a completely irresponsible assault on the health of our citizens. The nearly half a million New Jerseyans who rely on these health centers deserve a long-term extension, not kick-the-can-down-the-road politics as usual. I will not leave vulnerable New Jerseyans behind, and I’m hopeful my colleagues will agree to come together to solve this issue.”

Each health center leader described the potential cuts in services, hours and locations if they lose their federal funding.  They made clear to Sen. Menendez that it would be a dire situation, forcing patients to instead turn to hospital emergency rooms for their primary care, leave many afflicted by the opioid epidemic untreated, and adversely impact the greater public health.

Among the health center leaders who attended the roundtable discussion were:

  • Robert Bodnar, CEO Jewish Renaissance Medical Center
  • Sandy Cross, Jewish Renaissance Foundation
  • Dr. Alan Goldsmith, President, Jewish Renaissance Medical Center
  • Joan Dublin, Director, Metropolitan Health
  • Joan Quigley, CEO, North Hudson Community Action Corp
  • Linda Flake, CEO, South Jersey Family Medical Center
  • Eva Turbiner, Zufall Health Center
  • Theresa Berger, CEO, Ocean Health

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Sen. Menendez authored an amendment to the Affordable Care Act that provided Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) $11 billion in mandatory funding over five years for new and existing programs and activities to expand access to primary care services. This funding technically ran out in 2015, but Congress extended the funding through the Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, commonly known as MACRA. This funding is now set to expire after September 30, 2017. FQHCs also receive discretionary funding every year through the appropriations process but after the ACA, this discretionary funding has fallen making the mandatory funding critically important.

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Sen. Menendez attended the Aug. 17, 2017 National Health Center Week celebration at Jewish Renaissance Medical Center in Perth Amboy

In New Jersey, 23 health centers operate in 131 sites throughout the state, providing preventive and primary health care services to nearly 484,000 New Jerseyans.

Sen. Menendez also authored an amendment included in ACA final passage that requires private insurance plans on the exchange to fully reimburse FQHCs at no less than the same rate as Medicaid in order to ensure the economic vitality of community health centers and properly recognize them for the valuable role they play in the American health care system.

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