Community Health Centers face deep cuts

Posted at 7:55 AM, Sep 22, 2017

Community Health Centers that care for hundreds of thousands of low-income San Diegans are bracing for deep cuts. 

Congress has to act by Sept. 30 to maintain the funds to the centers, or services will start to decrease.

"This conversation is, do you have a doctor when you need one, who will see you?" said Vernita Todd, Vice President of Health Center Partners of Southern California, an association of 17 health centers in San Diego, Imperial and Riverside counties. 

The centers are concerned about $44 million of federal money that Congress has yet to renew. The money goes to lower the cost of services like primary care, vaccinations, cancer screenings and physicals. It can help turn a visit that would normally cost $150 into a $30 visit. 

"If they can't afford it, does that mean they'll forego treatment? Will they forego going to the doctor? Will they skip vaccinations for their children?" Todd said. 

Earlier this month, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY, introduced a bill to continue the funding for community health centers. It has 13 bipartisan supporters. Her spokesman says she's exploring different ways to move the legislation forward. 

Todd says she's not concerned the bill wouldn't pass. She just wants it to come up for a vote. But she's worried Congress isn't paying attention to the health center needs because it's focused on issues like Hurricane recovery, repealing the Affordable Care Act, and Immigration. 

She says the centers would start taking hits Oct. 1, when money for a program that essentially gets doctors to health centers dries up.

Then, on Jan. 1, they would lose the biggest lump sum, which could lead to layoffs, closures, and fewer services. 

There are six San Diego health center locations, including City Heights, San Ysidro, and Vista. You can find the location closest to you here