Progressive members of Congress are raising alarm and publicly calling out Democratic colleagues who are pushing legislation that would significantly cut funding to community health centers, which currently provide essential care to around 30 million primarily poor and rural Americans.
As the Washington Post‘s Jeff Stein reported Wednesday, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) is advancing a bipartisan measure that “would provide flat levels of federal funding for hundreds of community health centers nationwide, at about $4 billion for the next four years.”
“We should be substantially increasing funding. I was very, very disappointed by Democratic leadership. We will do everything we can to rectify this.”
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
Pallone denied that his bill calls for cuts, but progressives warned that because “flat” funding would not keep up with inflation, Pallone’s bill would lead to lower budgets for health clinics across the nation.
“The plan backed by Pallone, while better than letting the funding expire altogether, would amount to a nearly 20 percent funding reduction over four years for the clinics, almost certainly cutting the amount of medical, vision, dental, and mental healthcare they can provide primarily low-income Americans,” Stein reported, citing Sara Rosenbaum, a health expert at George Washington University.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has played a major role in securing and expanding funding for community health centers over the past decade, expressed outrage that Democrats would pursue legislation that could jeopardize healthcare for millions of low-income Americans.
“I was, quite honestly, stunned. It’s just absolutely disastrous, and moving in the wrong direction,” Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said of Pallone’s bill in an interview with the Post. “We should be substantially increasing funding. I was very, very disappointed by Democratic leadership… We will do everything we can to rectify this.”
Warren Gunnels, Sanders’s staff director, echoed the senator’s concerns in a series of tweets late Wednesday, saying Pallone’s legislation could deny healthcare to more than three million people annually.
“The idea that the House would consider denying primary healthcare to over three million Americans through a 20 percent real cut to community health centers after ‘finding’ $733 billion in defense funding for the most dangerous president in our history should sicken and disgust every American,” Gunnels wrote, referring to the House’s passage of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act last week. Just eight Democrats voted no.
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