NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 30, 2008

In spite of the rising cost of health care and the large number of uninsured, during his tenure, President Bush has doubled the federal financing for community health centers, enabling the creation of 1,297 clinics in medically underserved areas, says Kevin Sack of the New York Times.  For example:

  • United Neighborhood Health Services in Nashville has seen its federal financing rise to $4.2 million, from $1.8 million in 2001.
  • This has enabled the organization to add 8 new clinics to its base of six, and increase it pool of patients to 25,000 from its previous 10,000.

For those in poor urban neighborhoods and isolated rural areas, the clinics are often the only dependable providers of basic services like prenatal care, childhood immunizations and cancer screenings.  Despite the clinics' unprecedented growth, wide swaths of the country remain without access to affordable primary care.  The recession has only magnified the needs as many Americans have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance along with their jobs.

In his first year in office, President Bush proposed to open or expand 1,200 clinics and to double the number of patients served.  As a result:

  • Health centers now serve more than 16 million patients at 7,354 sites, the largest expansion since Lyndon Johnson originated the program.
  • One-in-three patients of health centers live in poverty, while one- in-eight are uninsured.
  • Moreover, it is estimated health centers save $17.6 billion a year in avoidable hospital and emergency room costs.

A proposed Senate bill would quadruple the amount spent on health centers from $2.1 billion to $8 billion and would provide incentives for medical students to choose primary care.  And at $8 billion, the Senate measure may be considered a relative bargain compared with the more than $100 billion needed for Mr. Obama's health plan.

Source:  Kevin Sack, "Expansion of Clinics Shapes Bush Legacy," New York Times, December 26, 2008.

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