New Report: 36 percent of Community Health Centers are Considering Closure

Tester Drives Home the Importance of Community Health Centers in Montana

(Great Falls, Mont.) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester is highlighting the crucial role community health centers play in providing health care across rural America and Montana as a sobering new report sheds light on the consequences of Congress’ failure to fund them.

According to a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation:

  • 3 percent of community health centers have taken steps to close one or more sites
  • 36 percent indicated they are considering closure
  • 20 percent of health centers have reported instituting hiring freezes
  • 4 percent have already laid off staff

Montana is home to 17 community health centers, which serve more than 100,000 people per year. That’s why Tester this week took to the Senate floor, reminding his colleagues that funding for these centers expired more than 120 days ago. Tester warns that without immediate action, Montana’s community health centers risk closure.

“Fully 10 percent of the citizens of Montana depend on community health centers for access to their health care,” Tester said. “It is, in some cases, the only source of heath care for these folks.”

Community health centers are cost-effective primary care options for America’s most underserved communities. Without a long-term budget reauthorizing the Community Health Center Fund, clinics across the country would see a 70 percent drop in federal grant funding and could start running out of money as early as this month.

Tester recently voted against passing a fourth continuing resolution this fiscal year-which provided just three weeks of funding for the federal government-because he believes organizations like community health centers need certainty when it comes to their budget.

“In my real life, I’m a farmer. I know that you have to plan. I know that you can’t go from month to month with uncertainty ahead of you because if you do, it will end up in a situation where it will put you out of business.” Tester said. “Unfortunately, the norm has been a month of continuing resolution funding, or three weeks, instead of coming to a point where we can fund things till the end of the fiscal year that will give folks certainty.”

Tester urged Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer earlier this week to address this issue immediately. He has been sounding alarms about this since last May, when he urged Senate Appropriators to take action. Tester is also a co-sponsor of the bipartisan Community Health Investment, Modernization, and Excellence Act of 2017, which would continue the Community Health Center Fund for five years.

More information about Montana’s community health centers is online HERE.