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Let's Hope Congress Supports CHIME in Time

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posted on Monday, September 18, 2017

The U.S. Capitol may be hundreds of miles away but readers should understand the actions our leaders take have a direct and immediate impact on our community.

A case in point is an imperiled health care program that already delivers results for the American taxpayer: Community Health Centers. They now serve 1 in 12 Americans, or 27 million people.  Health centers don't just save lives, they also lower health care costs, create jobs, and reduce hospital visits so that fewer dollars are spent on "sick care."   But unless Congress acts by the end of this month to extend their funding, the consequences for these health centers and their patients will be drastic. 

The program would be reduced by approximately 70%. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) itself has projected that the impact would be dramatic: closure of 2,800 health center locations, elimination of more than 50,000 jobs, and a loss of access to care for more than 9 million patients.  Keep in mind this is a program that has been in place for more than 50 years and enjoys broad bipartisan support in Congress.  But the clock is ticking until September 30th.   Thankfully some lawmakers are trying to act. Representatives Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Tom O'Halleran (D-AZ), David Young (R-IA) and Joe Courtney (D-CT) have swung into action with a bill  that extends health center funding for another five years. It is called the Community Health Investment, Modernization, and Excellence Act of 2017 (HR 3770), or more simply CHIME.

Let's hope our congressional leaders in South Carolina follow their model and sign on to fix the funding cliff.  Our health depends on it.

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