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Community health centers approach funding cliff

Shamane Mills

Wisconsin Public Radio

Free and reduced health clinics are facing a 70 percent cut in federal funding unless Congress acts by the end of the month to extend funding for the Health Centers program.

Federally qualified health centers in Wisconsin stand to lose $29 million in funding if lawmakers don't act by Saturday, Sept. 30. That’s when the Health Centers Fund, created in 2010 under the Affordable Care Act, expires and 30,000 patients in Wisconsin could lose access to care.

"If Congress doesn’t authorize an extension of health center funding, we’d be risking patient care and many jobs in areas of the state where community health centers are often one of the largest employers," said Lisa Olson, director of policy and programs at the Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association. That organization and others have sent a letter to Wisconsin’s congressional delegation about the matter.

The federal funding allows for a sliding fee discount at community health centers. It also provides funding for additional services, such as oral and behavioral health, and substance abuse treatment.  

"We just need them to take action before September 30th and there are lots of things fighting for Congress’ attention in the next 10 days," Olson said.

One of the biggest items on the congressional agenda is a proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. House leaders have set a vote for next Thursday on a bill that U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, and three other Republicans have introduced.

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