I spent some years proudly working in the United States Senate for three Republican senators. The world was different then. The desire to work on a bipartisan basis was never questioned. While not always followed, on meaningful healthcare legislation that impacted the lives of working families and the working poor, the focus was on what was in the nation’s best interest.
Today, healthcare issues are not a priority for some in the Republican leadership.
If it were, I would not be writing this and asking myself why does the Republican leadership in Congress want to deny ongoing healthcare for tens of thousands of Medi-Cal patients and working families in Merced and Stanislaus Counties, and millions across California?
Golden Valley Health Centers and Livingston Community Health are federally qualified health centers whose mission is to ensure the poor and all residents have access to affordable healthcare services – including adult care, pediatrics, dentistry, obstetrics, behavioral health counseling and affordable medications. Across the counties they serve thousands of patients every day.
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Tony Weber and Leslie McGowan, the CEOs of these two companies are a common thing uncommonly well while meeting the needs of the patients in a culturally competent way. At GVHCs and LCH, no one is denied care. That’s an approach Congress simply seems to have forgotten.
The medical professionals at these clinics save lives every day. They reduce and prevent chronic diseases, provide affordable options for care other than costly hospital emergency rooms, and they have been on the front lines of the national health crises. For many families in the Central Valley, they are the only healthcare providers available.
Together, they provide a safety net to keep our communities healthier – to ensure children are vaccinated; to protect the elderly from fear of having to go to a nursing home, and by delivering medical and social services to our most vulnerable neighbors, friends, and family. They don’t focus on politics, just people.
The future stability of Golden Valley and Livingston is being challenged. They operate on mostly federal funds.
But the legislation to re-authorize funding for GVHCs, LCH and other health centers across California and the nation has been stymied by the Congressional Republican leadership. Why? Because it is not a priority.
With every day that goes by, we prepare for the worst – possible budget cuts to these critical centers.
Ironically, every elected official I have ever met supports FQHCs. They understand the value they deliver.
Today, poor and working-class families are pawns in the Congressional budget debate. Maybe it’s payback for the benefits gained under the Affordable Care Act. Maybe it’s a new level of meanness directed at people they think won’t vote.
Regardless of the reasoning, Golden Valley Health Centers and Livingston Community Health will continue to serve every patient.
But we worry. If health care centers like GVHCs and LCH do not exist, or lose millions in funding because Congress decides to cut their budgets, where will these patients find healthcare? Are the nation’s most vulnerable expected to flood hospital emergency rooms again?
If Congress needs an economic argument, here’s one: Federally Qualified Health Centers employ more than 30,000 people across California and thousands more through indirect employment. One study shows health centers are saving an average of $2,371 – or 24 percent – in total spending per Medicaid patient when compared to other providers.
Health centers are not just another healthcare program. They serve about 1 of every 5 residents in Merced County – many of whom vote.
Healthcare should never be marginalized. When we fail to care for those most in need, we fail ourselves and our nation.
Jeffrey Lewis is president and CEO of Legacy Health Endowment. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org