When Congress voted on Monday to end a government shutdown, lawmakers also voted to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which insures low-income children and pregnant women, for another six years.
But they left out another health program that has not had a steady stream of funding since late September — funding for so-called community health centers.
Congress failed to re-authorize funding for community health centers at the end of September, leaving many of the facilities, which provide care primarily for low-income individuals, with an unsteady stream of funding.
One of those community health centers, Shenandoah Community Health, has a facility, Winchester Family Health Center, in Winchester.
Laura Wilson, the marketing director for Shenandoah Community Health, said that Shenandoah Community Health will continue to have funding through the rest of the fiscal year. She added that she spoke to the health center’s CEO, Mike Hassings, who told her that the health center was continuing to operate normally.
“He basically said that until we have a budget to take a look at, it’s business as usual,” Wilson said of her conversation. “And our funding right now is intact. But he’s sort of, like the rest of us, waiting on what the budget looks like.”
That leaves the community health center in a position to be able to wait for Congress to pass a budget.
That may happen on Feb. 8. Community health center funding has received bipartisan support.
But Amy Simmons Farber, the communications director for the National Association of Community Health Centers, said that some damage has already been done.
“It’s essentially had a very stabilizing effect,” Simmons Farber said. “You can’t run health care, particularly health care on which 27 million people rely, on a month-to-month basis.”
Simmons Farber said that some community health centers have laid off staff members and had problems recruiting because of the uncertainty surrounding funding.
Community health centers receive a large amount of their funding from patients and from insurers. But a full 20 percent of their revenue came from the federal government in 2015, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In 2016, Shenandoah Community Health received $5.4 million from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. The organization’s total budget is $28 million, according to a fact sheet provided by Wilson.