Community Health Centers Brace for 'Fiscal Cliff' If Federal Funding Isn't Renewed

Sep 20, 2017

Community health centers in New Hampshire — and nationwide – are bracing for the possible loss of millions of dollars in federal funding if Congress doesn’t take action by the end of this month.

Health centers across New Hampshire are calling it the “fiscal cliff.” These centers get a large chunk of their money through a federal grant called the Health Centers Fund. On Sept. 30, that money will start to run out – and right now, there’s no firm plan for renewing it.

According to information provided by Bi-State Primary Care Association, which represents community health centers in New Hampshire and Vermont, "Without action by Congress before September 30, 2017, New Hampshire's Health Centers will face a devastating 70% cut in their federal funds which could mean a loss of nearly $16 million and 47% of their patients could lose access to care."

That puts the people who keep community health centers afloat, like Goodwin Community Health CEO Janet Laatsch, in a bind.

“How can you be a business when you can’t determine what your funding is going to be? For Goodwin, it’s $1.2 million that we would lose, and so that’s a significant amount of money for us,” Laatsch said.

“We’ve never been in this position before,” she added. “We are bipartisan, everybody loves us, because we do what’s right and we do it in an effective manner and with great outcomes. We’re really in a position where it’s difficult to plan what might happen in the future.”

Laatsch said she spoke with U.S. Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price about the issue when he visited the Somersworth clinic on Thursday, and he seemed to understand the importance of making sure that money is renewed.

“This was an opportune time for him to come, and so I’m really hopeful he feels very optimistic we will see that funding.”

This story has been updated to correct an error about the amount of funding local health centers receive from the federal government.