More News Bites on the Primary Care Funding Cliff

Concerns about the primary care funding cliff are percolating on Capitol Hill, where U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) has called for a bipartisan efforts to work toward a solution for the funding shortfall.

“Millions of Americans could lose access to community health centers,” Sanders said in a press release.  “Members of Congress will need to work in a bipartisan way to extend funding if we are to continue to provide Americans with the greatest health care needs a reliable source of primary care,” Sanders said. “Without access to affordable primary care, people put off going to a doctor until they get so sick they end up in expensive hospital emergency rooms.  In some cases they simply wait too long and their illness becomes terminal.”

The chairman of a Senate subcommittee on primary care, Sanders has introduced legislation to avert the funding cliff. His bill would authorize $25 billion over five years in new funding for health centers. Another $4.9 billion would be set aside from 2016 to 2020 for the National Health Service Corps to provide scholarships and loan repayments for health care professionals committed to practice in underserved areas. The measure also would increase the number of health centers providing residency training through the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program.

Sanders’ efforts caught the attention of the local newspaper, Bennington Banner, which ran an editorial in support.  “We agree with Sen. Sanders. The time to act is now… Successful navigation of this Primary Care Fiscal Cliff will only get more difficult as the end of fiscal 2015 nears.  The time to sound the trumpet is now.”

Of course, health center leaders are also making a case to newspapers and describing what funding cliff really means in human terms:

“The good news is that today over 20,000 more Delawareans have health insurance as compared to just a year ago, some of whom are insured for the very first time in their lives,” writes Lolita Lopez, President and CEO of Westside Family Healthcare in Wilmington, DE, in an op-ed published last month.   “Yet, although critically important, health insurance coverage alone does not guarantee access to care. Even more important, the progress we have made so far to improve access is now threatened here in Delaware, as well as in communities across the nation.”

Stay tuned to this blog for more updates about health centers and the funding cliff.


NACHC CHI Conference Highlights and Other News

wiltzIt has been a few days since the NACHC 2014 Community Health Institute (CHI) and EXPO wrapped up and everyone has gone home armed with new information and ideas. The advantage of the CHI is that thousands of health center leaders from around the country gather under one roof to network, exchange ideas, and hear from a variety of experts with trainings and education sessions. And there were a lot of sessions to choose from.

For instance, we sat in on a very good session about assessing the challenges and best practices from the last round of open enrollment. We learned from Leticia Cazares, Director of Outreach at San Ysidro Health Center in California, that one of the biggest challenges was misinformation and myths perpetuated in the media and elsewhere that often confused patients. Also, many health center patients did not realize that they could enroll in Medicaid throughout the year (if they qualified) or were eligible to enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace through special enrollment periods as a result of certain life events.

The good news is open enrollment begins again on November 15 and already health centers are gearing up to assist patients with their insurance options. Also, we learned that Navigators and Certified Application Counselors have to be recertified every year and that certification expires in August for staff and volunteers of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) 2013 Navigator grantees in the Federally-Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) who completed training during the 2013-2014 grant period. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is recommending health centers contact either their primary care association or state marketplace in non-FFM states to learn about the O&E assistance worker training requirements in their states. That is important information for health centers to know. As we’ve noted before, over 5 million people received enrollment assistance at their local health center to help them access coverage through the Affordable Care Act. This go around–the stakes are even higher as the enrollment season is shorter and the expectations are higher.

But back to the highlights…NACHC’s general sessions are a favorite for its information, speakers, and the nod to health center stars. The NACHC Community HealthCare Awards of Excellence are a regular feature.  This year’s honorees distinguished themselves in many aspects of healthcare delivery–innovation, research, public service, finance, education and training, and much more.

NACHC also honored Direct Relief, a humanitarian medical aid organization, for its unwavering commitment to supporting health centers across the United States that care for the nation’s most vulnerable people [see press release].

In his keynote address before accepting the award Direct Relief President and CEO Thomas Tighe told the audience, “there is no other nonprofit that has done what you do, as well as you do.”

Also a steady favorite at the general sessions is the update from HRSA.  Associate Administrator Jim Macrae brought health center leaders up-to-date on key health center issues just as the Department of Health and Human Services announced $35.7 million in Affordable Care Act funding to 147 health centers in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to support patient-centered medical homes (PCMH) through new construction and facility renovations. Nearly 50 percent of health centers have had at least one site recognized as a Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH), and this latest investment will no doubt push those numbers higher.

Stay tuned for the next issue of the Community Health Forum, which will have a more detailed follow up about the 2014 NACHC CHI!

NACHC CHI 2014 Underway in Sunny San Diego

expo hallThere is a lot of buzz and chatter in the halls as thousands of health center leaders gather for the 2014 NACHC  CHI and EXPO now going on in San Diego.  The education sessions and meetings cover a variety of topics central to the operations of Community Health Centers, which now serve 23 million people, or 1 in 15 people in the US.  A key focus is continuing the value that health centers bring to the healthcare marketplace in terms of clinical quality, access and cost-savings.  NACHC Board Chair Gary Wiltz, MD, touched on those same topics and the importance of operational excellence at yesterday’s General Session, noting that nearly 50 percent of health centers have had at least one site recognized as a Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH).

“We are now and will continue to be America’s premier healthcare homes,” Wiltz said in his widely tweeted remarks.

Wiltz also underscored the importance of the health center “playbook,” or the ACCESS plan, even though fiscal challenges do lie ahead.  One of those challenges–and a constant buzz throughout this conference–is the primary care funding cliff. Health centers can face a funding cut of up to 70 percent when mandatory funding from the Affordable Care Act expires after next year. If Congress does not provide a fix, and if no additional states adopt the Medicaid expansion, patient loads at health centers could fall by as much as 25 percent, according to some estimates. NACHC staff have also unveiled new online resources for health centers to help them educate the public, their patients and elected leaders about the issue, with message points, articles, background information and much more.

In terms of information, though, the CHI is overflowing with fresh ideas, data, conversations and strategies that are useful for any healthcare professional.  Wander into an education session and you can find out the latest on outreach and enrollment best practices at CHCs going into the next installment of open enrollment in November. Or you can hear about growing a strong primary care workforce, or boosting oral health access.  Stay tuned as we try to keep you up to date via this blog. And don’t forget to follow the hashtag  on Twitter at #NACHCchi14.

NACHC Gets Ready for Back to School

Employees at the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) got into the back-to-school spirit recently by donating school supplies to the Building Hope Inc. school supplies drive. NACHC’s Community Service Committee (CSC) collected, donated, and sorted backpacks, crayons, color pencils, binders and much more for the organization.  The effort was led by CSC Chair and Founder Sanetra Mitchell, NACHC’s Accounts Payable Manager.

This latest effort was not the first time Mitchell and her colleagues on CSC have successfully organized service drives.  They have also collected coats and blankets for the homeless during the cold winter months, collected Christmas gifts for the local pediatric center, and served up Thanksgiving dinner to the needy.  During a NACHC conference in New Orleans,  CSC also organized busloads of employees to St. Bernard Parish to help rebuild homes flooded after Hurricane Katrina.

CSC has many projects lined up for the coming months.  They are planning to collect baby supplies for  a local health center’s patients, as well as  start winter coat drive for children.  There is also a toiletry drive in the works for a local homeless shelter.

Stay tuned for more updates.

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The 2014 CHI App will Enhance Your Conference Experince!

photo 1photo 2The new and improved mobile application for the 2014 Community Health Institute and Expo is officially available for download via the Apple and Google App stores. The app makes following #NACHCchi14 on Twitter, registering for education sessions, and creating your own personal calendar of workshops is as easy as pushing a button.

Instructions on how to download this free app for Android, Apple, and Blackberry users are as follows:



How to locate and download the App for the Google Play Store:


1. Launch the Google Play Store

2. Search the Event name NACHC CHI 2014 (partial search supplies better results)

3. Tap the event App icon/listing


1. Tap the Install button

2. Enter Google ID Password and click OK

3. Tap the Accept & Download button

4. App begins downloading and displays on your phone


How to locate and download the App for Apple:


1. Launch the App Store

2. Search the Event name NACHC CHI 2014 (partial search supplies better results)

3. Tap the event App icon/listing


1. Tap the Free button (changes to ‘Install App’)

2. Tap Install App

3. Enter Apple ID Password and click OK

4. App begins downloading and displays on your phone

See you in San Diego!