Reminder: Community health clinics for 26 million people still being held hostage.

2019 OPEN ENROLLMENT ENDS (most states)

Time: D H M S

Yesterday I correctly noted that Congressional Republicans took around 9.6 million hostages during budget negotiations: 8.9 million children enrolled in the CHIP program, and 690,000 DACA recipients (aka Dreamers)...young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States when they were minors (or even infants in some cases), and who are at risk of being deported stating in March thanks to Donald Trump rescinding their status for no particular reason.

After negotiations with the kidnappers broke down last Friday, the Dems tried to rescue all 9.6 million hostages, but were only able to free the 8.9 million children; the remaining 690,000 young adults are still being held hostage by the GOP as I write this, and negotiations for their futures are still murky.

However, I forgot about a few other hostages still being held as well:

  • disaster relief for California/other states ravaged by wildfires;
  • additional disaster relief for Puerto Rico, Florida, and Texas after last fall's hurricanes; and most importantly...
  • funding for community health centers

As Paige Winfield Cunningham notes at the Washington Post:

Congress has finally hauled the health insurance program for low-income kids to dry land, but community health centers are still out at sea.

After an unprecedented 114-day funding lapse, lawmakers voted yesterday to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program for another six years as part of the spending bill to reopen the government. But while we certainly applaud lawmakers for meeting their CHIP deadline a mere four months after the fact, let’s not forget that Congress has only really done half the job here.

Funding for the nation’s community health centers, which serve one out of every dozen Americans, also technically expired Sept. 30. These centers, which provide a range of services to the low-income population, would lose $3.6 billion this year without renewal by Congress.

It was definitely a surprise that lawmakers allowed the bipartisan CHIP program to go so long without renewal — especially because Democrats and Republicans both typically praise the program and have repeatedly voted overwhelmingly to fund it. But it’s even more shocking to some health-care advocates that Congress has permitted community health center funding to lapse this long.

After all, long-term CHIP funding has run out before (although Congress patched the program with short-term fixes), but community health centers haven't faced the same dilemma. In fact, Republicans would have beefed up community health center funding in their health-care bills last summer by diverting Medicaid dollars from Planned Parenthood clinics.

And sure enough, it looks like the CHCs are indeed being used as pawns this go around as well:

The word on Capitol Hill is that Congress will tackle funding for community health centers in the next spending bill it takes up three weeks from now. Lawmakers agreed yesterday to fund the government through Feb. 8 after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he would address the status of young immigrants called “dreamers” who were brought to this country illegally as children, my colleagues Sean Sullivan, Ed O'Keefe and Elise Viebeck report. But with few details of what that plan might look like, health-center advocates remain worried.

“I am genuinely shocked at how hard it has been to get community health center funding extended,” Eliot Fishman, senior director of health policy at Families USA, told me. “That has been completely uncontroversial for very good reason for a long time.”

As the National Association of Community Health Centers noted...

We still need a health center funding cliff fix, help us spread the word https://t.co/Gein8I57lU #fqhc #fixthecliff #valuechcs https://t.co/P2sIgt9Sx9

— NACHC (@NACHC) January 22, 2018

The link above goes to the Health Action Advocacy Network website:

Weigh in with your Member of Congress about the Health Center Funding Cliff

Our collective voice and persistent advocacy in 2017 pushed Congress to provide a temporary short term funding patch for the Health Centers Program that will run through early March.  We will continue to do all we can to push for an immediate extension of health center funding. Please continue to take action and weigh in with Members of Congress and their staff, and urge them to make health center funding their highest priority.