U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, says there’s no reason Congress should have let funding lapse last September for the nation’s community health services, including $70 million for Missouri. Blunt tells Missourinet the issue could become an incentive to pass a temporary federal budget this month.

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at Missouri House Communications}

“I don’t think they (health services) will necessarily be held hostage,” says Blunt. We’ve got to figure out how to break this cycle and community health centers are not a particular target. They are just a symptom of a government that for the last ten years has forgotten how to get its work done.”

During last month’s federal shutdown, Congress reauthorized funding for CHIP – a children’s health insurance safety net program – but not for the local health services many of them choose to use. The services save money in the long run by providing preventative and primary care upfront – keeping people out of more expensive forms of care including emergency rooms.

“I’ve always thought that these were maybe the least understood access points to health care and one of the most important access points,” says Blunt. “They’re seldom factored in to whether people have access to care or not. I think that’s a big mistake.

Missouri has 29 community health centers and 200 locations that serve about 550,000 Missourians annually. Many of the patients cared for are low-income, uninsured and Medicaid or Medicare recipients.

The services currently exist in more than 50 of Missouri’s 114 counties. In many rural areas, community-based programs are the only health provider. They deliver medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmaceutical services, among others.

Blunt is proposing to reapprove five years of local health services funding with a 4% annual increase.

“In the last 20 years, they’ve become a huge part of health care delivery in our country and even a bigger part of health care delivery in our state,” says Blunt.

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, is co-sponsoring the measure.

Blunt says there’s broad-based support to reapprove the funding. He says it’s just a matter of when Congress will get the funding passed.