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Sanders and Marshall reach consensus on funding community health centers


Sep 14, 2023

A bipartisan Senate bill introduced by Health Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kansas) aims to establish community health centers and provides increased funding for primary care programs. This legislation is particularly urgent as funding for community health centers is set to expire by the end of September. The bill is scheduled to be discussed in the Help Committee next Thursday.

However, leading Republicans on the committee have expressed their lack of support for the bill. Questions also remain regarding how the bill will be funded. Ranking member of the HELP committee, Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), raised concerns about the significant increase in federal spending without a concrete plan to finance it. He also highlighted insufficient protections under the Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal funds from being used for abortions.

Despite opposition from some Republicans, the bill can still pass the HELP committee without their support. However, additional Republican votes will be needed for it to pass on the floor. The proposed legislation includes a funding increase of nearly $2 billion a year for community health centers, allowing for expanded hours and school-based health services. It also allocates increased funding for the National Health Service Corps, supporting healthcare workers in underserved areas and providing scholarships and debt forgiveness.

Sanders and Marshall have stated that the bill will be fully paid for, but the details released so far are likely to receive pushback from hospitals. The bill includes provisions aimed at preventing anticompetitive behavior by hospitals when negotiating prices with private insurance companies. It also prohibits hospitals from charging “facility fees” for certain services not performed on hospital premises, such as telemedicine.

In conclusion, this bipartisan Senate bill seeks to establish community health centers, increase funding for primary care programs, and address issues related to hospital pricing practices. While support for the bill is divided along party lines, its potential impact on healthcare accessibility and funding make it a critical piece of legislation.

By Editor

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