FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 20, 2020
Washington, D.C. — Today, Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán led her colleagues in urging Congressional leaders to provide additional emergency funding for the nation’s community health centers in future coronavirus stimulus bills.
Community health centers are struggling to keep up with the challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis, despite being on the frontlines in serving patients and reducing the burden on hospitals and emergency rooms. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Barragán led 30 members of Congress in asking for additional resources beyond the $100 million allocated to community health centers earlier this month.
“Clinics are experiencing declining Medicaid revenue at the exact same time they are making significant unbudgeted outlays for emergency equipment and supplies,” the Congress members wrote. “As this crisis intensifies, the health care system will be depending on community health centers to help reduce the burden on hospitals and emergency rooms. Health centers should not be worried about financial stability and how they are going to keep their doors open, their lights on, and their staff employed during this crisis.
“Providing additional robust emergency funding and securing the long-term financial stability of health centers must continue to be a top priority as additional stimulus packages are developed and negotiated.”
Reps. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Mike Doyle (D-Pa..), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), John B. Larson (D-Conn.), Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Mark Veasey (D-Texas), Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Vincente Gonzalez (D-Texas), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Linda T. Sánchez (D-Calif.), Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), Norma Torres (D-Calif.), and John Garamendi (D-Calif.) joined Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) on the letter.
Text of today’s letter is below. To read a PDF of the letter, [click here].
March 20, 2020
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:
The undersigned Members of Congress write to urgently request that you provide additional critically needed resources to support the nation’s community health center infrastructure during the COVID-19 crisis. As an example, California’s community health centers provide health care services to 1 in 3 Medicaid recipients and 1 in 6 Californians. Health centers are on the frontlines of this crisis, and are a critical component of our nation’s response to containing and controlling the spread of COVID-19. Now more than ever, they must have the resources and support they need to serve their patients and communities, and help relieve the burden on our emergency rooms and hospitals.
Health centers are struggling with a number of challenges during this crisis.
- Health centers do not have sufficient testing supplies, and they are experiencing delays from vendors and labs.
- Health centers cannot obtain enough personal protective equipment. While some regions have systems and structures in place to distribute supplies—backlogs, severe shortages and logistical challenges persist. Health centers are scouring online vendors and other non-traditional sources to try to procure the supplies they need.
- Health centers’ call centers are overwhelmed with inquiries from both patients and non-patients seeking answers to questions, reassurance, and asking for testing. The increased call volume comes as health centers are trying to protect their own staff by implementing social distancing measures, relocating staff, implementing remote work policies, and contending with staff facing childcare challenges due to school closures.
- Health centers are setting up exterior screening areas and in some cases isolation areas, to protect staff and other patients from those who may be infected with the coronavirus.
Critically, clinics are experiencing declining Medicaid revenue at the exact same time they are making significant unbudgeted outlays for emergency equipment and supplies. Health centers’ normal Medicaid visit numbers are declining as patients stay home and the centers curtail non-urgent services. For example, health centers in California are reporting visits decreasing 50 percent. This translates into a loss of $34.5 million in Medicaid revenue each week during this crisis. This is not sustainable.
Our nation’s health centers are working tirelessly to support the COVID-19 response, limit the spread of the virus and support their staff, patients and communities. As this crisis intensifies, the health care system will be depending on community health centers to help reduce the burden on hospitals and emergency rooms. Health centers should not be worried about financial stability and how they are going to keep their doors open, their lights on, and their staff employed during this crisis.
We thank you for the $100 million already allocated to health centers in the bipartisan package passed earlier this month, but providing additional robust emergency funding and securing the long-term financial stability of health centers must continue to be a top priority as additional stimulus packages are developed and negotiated.
Nanette Diaz Barragán is proud to represent California’s 44th Congressional District, which includes the communities of Carson, Compton, Florence-Firestone, Lynwood, North Long Beach, Rancho Dominguez, San Pedro, South Gate, Walnut Park, Watts, Willowbrook and Wilmington.