Community healthcare centers for low-income and un-insured Iowans are dealing with uncertainty these days, after Congress ended its last session without passing a federal budget. Without a budget bill, programs in operation today will be funded with "continuing resolutions," a stopgap measure.
For the Iowa-Nebraska Primary Care Association , it puts growth on "hold." Base funding is "solid and secure," according to Ted Boesen, Executive Director for the Iowa-Nebraska Primary Care Association, but new "access points" are an issue for which funding is not so clear.
While existing centers are likely to remain open, Boesen says the problem is the need for more. There are communities with applications in for new community healthcare center "access points" in Burlington, Dubuque, and northwest Iowa…but without a final federal budget that contains an increase for them, there won’t be funding for the communities that want a new center to open.
Community Health Centers are outpatient clinics that provide primary medical care, dental care, and mental or behavioral-health care to anyone who comes to ask for care, regardless of their ability to pay. They’re charged on a sliding fee scale. Boesen says while the centers only offer outpatient care, they help many people with their preventive health care, like vaccinations, diabetes monitoring, and prenatal care for pregnant women.
"We’re an essential part of the safety-net fabric," he says. People who don’t have any other options have a place they can go, and the programs help keep them well, and avoid the costly and inappropriate trips they might otherwise make to hospital emergency rooms. He says many can avoid being admitted to hospitals if they get the proper care from the community centers, which fill the role of a family physician. There are ten community healthcare centers in Nebraska, and more than 30 in Iowa funded by the association.