Clinics for Low-Income Iowans Face Uncertainty as Congress Considers Funding

Feb 6, 2018

Funding for clinics that serve low-income and uninsured Iowans hangs in the balance as Congress considers another short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown Friday.

Community health centers in Iowa served nearly 190,000 patients in 2016. The clinics have bipartisan support, but federal lawmakers let the funding lapse at the end of September.

Aaron Todd is with the Iowa Primary Care Association, which represents the state’s community health centers. He says they’ve already seen issues with financing.

“Some of our health centers have capital improvement projects that are planned or have even begun, where banks have questioned whether or not Congress is going to follow through on their funding, and have in one instance actually pulled their funding and the health center had to look for a new bank to finance their projects,” Todd says.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Iowa’s community health centers get 25 percent of their funding from the federal government.

Christine Kemp is CEO of Peoples Community Health Clinic in Waterloo. She says she is delaying capital projects and starting to think about what services she might have to cut.

“Because to cut that much, to cut $2 million out of our budget, I have to probably eliminate a department,” Kemp says. “Because if I eliminate people, I can’t continue to see the patients that we’re seeing. We won’t have enough support staff.”

Kemp says a lack of funding could lead to the elimination of a satellite clinic, the behavioral health department, dental services or interpreter services.

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst signed on to a bipartisan letter asking Senate leadership to reauthorize community health center funding. The U.S. House of Representatives could vote on a spending bill Tuesday that includes a two-year funding renewal.