A stalled federal budget leaves the future of Louisiana’s community health centers uncertain, doctors and medical administrators said Tuesday.
The U.S. Senate has yet to vote on the latest budget deal from the House of Representatives, which would fund community health centers for two years. Federal funds provide $90 million a year to facilities in Louisiana. Long-term funding expired in September, though Congress has temporarily reauthorized it through March 31.
“With Congress’ inability to come to an agreement on extending community healthcare funding and looming cuts to healthcare in Louisiana, the future of Louisiana’s federally qualified health centers is in a very precarious situation,” said Dr. Shondra Williams, board president for the Louisiana Primary Care Association.
The organization held a news conference Tuesday at Southeast Community Health Systems in Zachary, urging the state’s congressional delegation to approve funds to the health centers.
Community health centers serve 27 million Americans, including roughly 385,000 Louisiana residents. Most of the facilities are in low-income and rural areas, where access to care is limited.
“Louisiana’s constituents rely on our services,” said Louisiana Primary Care Association CEO Alecia Cyprian. “In some cases, we’re the only alternative they would have.”
Failure to fund community health centers could fuel widespread layoffs, officials with the Louisiana Primary Care Association said. The organization estimates that the facilities have generated 4,682 jobs, including 2,595 in the centers themselves.
Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy from Louisiana joined roughly two-thirds of U.S. Senators on Tuesday, signing a letter that urges Senate leaders to renew community health funding.
“These centers provide comprehensive medical services without courting controversy like Planned Parenthood does,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Community health centers are vital to Louisiana families.”
Federally qualified health centers have bipartisan support in Congress. Both Kennedy and Cassidy accuse Democrats of holding up negotiations. Democrats on Capitol Hill claim the Republican majority is wrongly inserting partisan provisions into spending bills.
The federal government is currently operating on its fourth stop-gap budget since Oct. 1. Lawmakers must either pass a long-term budget or a fifth short-term bill by Thursday at midnight, or they face a partial government shutdown.