Guest Opinions

We are the family doctor for 170,000 Idahoans. Congress could fail to approve our money.

Idaho health centers serve as the family doctor to more than 170,000 people – or nearly one in 10 Idahoans.
Idaho health centers serve as the family doctor to more than 170,000 people – or nearly one in 10 Idahoans. NYT

Every health center in Idaho is facing a 70 percent cut in funding, unless Congress takes action by Sept. 30 to reauthorize the Community Health Centers Fund.

For decades, nonprofit community health centers have drawn bipartisan support from lawmakers and U.S. presidents due to their record of success. Historically this support has included federal funding that enables health centers to provide sliding fee medical services to individuals who are income eligible.

Each day, Idahoans in every corner of the state visit a community health center for medical check-ups, pre-natal exams, chronic disease management, child immunizations, mental health counseling, and more. Some of these Idahoans have insurance, but many do not. As nonprofit healthcare systems, health centers offer primary care that improves the wellness of individuals and families – regardless of a person’s ability to pay.

Idaho health centers have a statewide footprint of 72 clinic sites and provide medical, dental, behavioral health and pharmacy services. They serve as the family doctor to more than 170,000 people – or nearly one in 10 Idahoans.

Health centers have saved countless lives providing affordable access to primary care. They have helped reduce the incidence of chronic disease in the most challenging rural and urban communities all over Idaho. Access to health centers help reduce unnecessary visits to a hospital emergency room.

Health centers are problem-solvers that look beyond medical charts to prevent illness, but also to address the factors that actually cause poor health, such as homelessness, lack of nutrition, stress, and drug addiction.

Right now more than 75 national organizations, representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, health centers, children, patients, the faith community, financial institutions and health care industry partners, are banding together and calling on lawmakers to extend health center funding before Sept. 30.

Let’s hope our leaders pay attention and fix the funding cliff. The health of over 170,000 Idahoans depends on it.

Yvonne Ketchum-Ward is CEO of the Idaho Primary Care Association.

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