By John Lynds
In an Op-Ed that appeared in Stat News on Monday, Dec. 18, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren called House Republicans onto the carpet for halting federal funding to the nation’s Community Health Centers, like East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC), while working on cutting taxes for the “wealthy.”
“I love community health centers,” Warren wrote. “They do wonderful work and enjoy widespread support. But I’m worried because Republican leaders in Congress have held these centers hostage by halting federal funding while they focus on passing tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s past time to step up the fight for community health centers in my state of Massachusetts and across the country.”
Warren argued that community health centers, like EBNHC, are a big part of what’s working well in health care today — more coverage at lower cost.
“They are on the front lines of the opioid epidemic,” she wrote. “They provide preventive services and chronic disease management. They are taking the stigma out of mental health treatment. And they save money by promoting disease prevention, providing care coordination, and reducing the use of hospital emergency rooms.”
On Sept. 30, Warren said Congress blew past a major funding deadline for community health centers — a reauthorization of the Community Health Center Fund.
“This program provides more than 70 percent of all federal funding for health centers,” she wrote. “Reauthorizing this program should be a no-brainer, and many of my Republican colleagues agree with that. But Republican leadership has been so focused on stripping health-care coverage from many of the people who walk through the doors of community health centers that they ran right past this deadline — and they’ve just kept on running.”
Community health centers across the country are feeling the impact.
“They are holding back on hiring new staff or deferring opportunities to make vital improvements to their programs. If they don’t get this funding soon, they’ll have to make even tougher decisions, like laying off staff members, cutting services, or reducing hours,” she wrote. “In East Boston, which is geographically isolated from the rest of the city, the community health center operates an emergency room that is open around the clock.People who work in community health centers know that health care is a basic human right. The dedicated doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals at these sites take incredible care of families from every background. And they’re always looking for ways they can better serve their patients and their community. But community health centers can’t do this much-needed work if the federal government doesn’t keep its promises.”
Warren said tax cuts for billionaires shouldn’t come ahead of making sure that children, pregnant women, people in need of addiction treatment, veterans, and other vulnerable populations have access to health care.
“I’ll keep fighting for community health centers and for all of these health care programs that have improved the lives of people in my state and every other state,” she wrote. “I believe everyone deserves access to affordable, high-quality health care. Community health centers excel at providing that care — and they deserve our support.”
EBNHC recently hosted Sen. Warren were she saw first-hand the important work that the Health Center and its staff does on a daily basis.
“We were obviously so pleased to host Sen. Warren on her visit tour to the Health Center and we are glad she is fighting hard for Community Health Centers like ours across the country,” said Snyder.