FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 4, 2011 

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Susan Ward (206)786-0094 / susan@teamsoapbox.com

House Budget Threatens Health Care Infrastructure

Deep cuts to health center funding threaten clinic viability

Seattle, WA – The House budget released today for the 2011-2013 biennium dramatically weakens the health centers that provide cost-effective, preventive care to Washington’s most vulnerable people. While the House preserved essential, cost-effective health care programs like Basic Health and Disability Lifeline, it made deep cuts to community health center funding, threatening the health care delivery system that forms the backbone of the safety net and serves the majority of patients on these programs.

Among many deep cuts to health care for vulnerable children and adults, this budget:

  • Cuts $183 million in state and federal payments to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) that serve 29% of the state’s Medicaid and uninsured populations;
  • Preserves the Basic Health program for 41,200 people, 14,400 fewer than at the beginning of 2011; and
  • Preserves the Disability Lifeline medical program for ~17,000 temporarily disabled adults.


According to Mary Looker, Chief Executive Officer of the Washington Association of Community & Migrant Health Centers, “The health care cuts in the House budget are not sound fiscal policy.  The FQHC Medicaid rate cuts would lead health centers to close clinics, cut hours and eliminate jobs in many communities. This will force people into hospitals and crowded emergency rooms where they will receive more expensive care, increasing health care costs, including premiums, for everyone.” 

The resulting impacts will severely limit access for the more than 750,000 low-income patients in communities across the state who rely on community health centers. As wait times increase, hours reduced and programs eliminated, patients will lose access to care, including access to their vital medications, forcing them to make life-threatening choices between putting food on the table and taking care of their health conditions.

According to Rebecca Kavoussi, assistant vice president of government affairs for the Community Health Network of Washington,“House leadership said they hoped that saving Basic Health and Disability Lifeline would create a bridge to health care reform, but these rate cuts wipe out the foundation of that bridge. It’s ironic that near the one-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, this budget takes massive cuts to the primary care system that the state needs to provide care to the over 400,000 low-income Washingtonians who will get health coverage in 2014.”

In 2009, Washington Community Health Centers served over 34,000 more uninsured patients than in 2008 – a 17% increase – and those numbers continue to rise.

Community Health Network of Washington Chief Executive Officer Lance Hunsinger states, “By compromising the community health center delivery system, this budget cuts off patients’ access to care at a time when there is unprecedented need. All patients—uninsured, Medicaid, Basic Health, Disability Lifeline—will have difficulty accessing timely care under this budget.Health care is a basic necessity for all people, not a luxury when times are good or just for those with high incomes. It is critical that the Senate takes a more balanced approach to the budget and examines every available option with the same scrutiny that they examine cuts to health care.”

The Community Health Network of Washington and the Washington Association of Community & Migrant Health Centers are calling on the State Senate to take a more balanced approach to its biennial budget proposal.

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Community Health Network of Washington (CHNW)
Founded by community health centers in Washington State, Community Health Network of Washington (CHNW) is a community health center-focuseddelivery network, whose mission is to improve the health status of our communities through the provision of high-quality, affordable, community-based health care to underserved individuals and families.

The Washington Association of Community & Migrant Health Centers (WACMHC)
WACMHC is a non-profit organization, formed in 1985, to advocate on behalf of the low-income, uninsured, and underserved populations of Washington State served by community health centers.  These health centers serve low income and other persons with limited access to health care.