Watertown Daily Times | Stefanik instrumental in saving funds for rural health-care clinics

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik has played a major role in efforts to maintain funding for rural health centers, many of which operate in the north country.

Stefanik (R-Willsboro) was an original co-sponsor of legislation that will extend funding for community health centers at $3.6 billion for two years.

“This is a really important issue for our district,” she said. “We have numerous health centers throughout the district, which include over several millions of dollars in funding and serve more than 95,000 patients across the 21st District.”

Stefanik said she has visited many health centers in the region and was struck by the need for their services in the largely rural district.

“Providing that certainty and continuity in funding for rural health centers is so important for access for a place like the north country,” she said. “And it also saves jobs in the health-care industry.”

Stefanik’s move to maintain the funding was endorsed by 180 fellow members of Congress.

As a result, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce has approved the bill and forwarded it to the full House, where it will be voted on in the coming weeks.

“It’s been unbelievable to see the bipartisan support we’ve got on this,” Stefanik said. “In a short period of time, we’ve been able to garner more than 175 lawmakers to support this.”

Nationwide, rural health centers provide primary-care medical treatment for more than 26 million Americans living in every state and territory, Stefanik said in a news release.

The more than 1,400 health-center organizations nationwide provide access to high-quality primary and preventive care, while integrating behavioral health, dental, substance abuse and other critical services for their patients.

Health centers are known as a cost-effective provider of care, Stefanik said, having been proven to save 24 percent in total Medicaid spending when compared to other providers.

Total funding for the Health Centers Program stands at $5.1 billion annually.

Of that, $3.6 billion comes from the Community Health Centers Fund, a dedicated source of funding that was extended for two years in 2015.

If the funding were to be cut, more than 9 million patients would lose access to care, 50,000 jobs could be lost in economically hard-hit communities across the nation, and 2,800 health centers may be forced to shut down, according to estimates from the Department of Human Services.

Dr. Tucker Slingerland, chief executive officer of Hudson Headwaters Health Network, which operates 17 facilities throughout the north country, said restoring the funding was a big boost for Hudson Headwaters and other health-care providers in the region.

“This is really great news for us, and we want to convey our thanks to Congresswoman Stefanik for interest in health care in our region,” Slingerland said.

“We are all very lucky that she has taken this interest.”

Slingerland said Hudson Headwaters sees more than 1,000 patients a day at their facilities.

“This is just one part of the larger health-care delivery system in all of our communities, and having this continued support for funding is key to making things work for Hudson Headwaters,” he said.

“Hopefully more good things will come from this.”

Requests for comments from Samaritan Medical Center and the North Country Family Health Clinic went unanswered.

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Watertown Daily Times | Stefanik instrumental in saving funds for rural health-care clinics

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