Last week, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina introduced legislation to extend and expand funding for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and community health centers in medically underserved communities. The Community Health Center and Primary Care Workforce Expansion Act of 2019 is a five-year renewal and funding expansion for the National Health Service Corps and the federal Health Centers Program. For fiscal 2020, the bill would allocate $850 million in funding for the NHSC, essentially doubling the current funding for the program. In addition, the legislation calls for 10 percent increases each year through FY 2023, ensuring a tripling of the program.
The current funding level for the NHSC has only enabled support for 40 percent of loan repayment applicants, and 10 percent of scholarship applicants. The Sanders/Clyburn proposal would enable nearly all these applicants to be funded next year, with additional funding allocated to reach the breadth of underserved patients across the country.
The ACU is proud to be an endorsing organization for this bill, and we hope it passes in the coming months. If Congress doesn’t act soon, federal funding for these programs will expire by September 30. The last extension was for two years and ends in FY2019. If Congress fails to act, millions of Americans could lose access to primary care services through these critical healthcare programs.
We thank Representative Clyburn and Senator Sanders for their leadership and support of clinicians who care for the underserved. This proposed legislation builds on their long commitment to improving the health of underserved communities and to develop and support those clinicians who serve them. We additionally thank Senators Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., are co-sponsors of the legislation in the Senate, and 57 members in the House who are cosponsoring the legislation.
If you support this bill, please contact your legislators to voice your support and the importance of passing it before the federal funding expires.