A new initiative sponsored by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund and provided by Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) aims to expand financing options for Community Health Centers so they can extend their reach into medically underserved communities. The two-year effort, Financing Community Health Centers, was announced at the National Association of Community Health Center’s (NACHC) 2013 Policy and Issues Forum—this past March in Washington, D.C.
“We will be working to assist the growth of Community Health Centers which are such vital organizations for both the communities they serve and for our country’s economic development,” said CDFI Fund Director Donna J. Gambrell during the announcement.
The effort will forge partnerships between OFN and organizations, such as Capital Link, the Primary Care Development Corporation and the NCB Capital Impact to train and provide technical assistance to CDFI organizations. CDFIs provide lending and non-financial services to the same underserved populations that community health centers support, and many leading CDFIs have developed best practices to assist their local Community Health Centers with financing for construction, growth, and expansion.
Health centers need capital financing to build their capacity and care for the growing numbers of newly insured by expanding or upgrading their facilities and equipment. However, currently there is only a patchwork of financing options that are often difficult for health centers to access or are costly to implement.
The focus of the initiative is to foster a better understanding of the mission and work of health centers among CDFIs and promote more lending arrangements with health centers. The effort comes as health centers are on track to expand services in medically underserved rural and urban communities. Despite significant federal investments from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health centers face persistent challenges in securing affordable financing for construction and renovation projects. Health centers often rely on government funds, foundation grants, and capital campaigns; yet these resources are scarce and insufficient to produce the necessary amount of equity for many of them to move ahead with their capital projects.
“To have the Treasury Department of the United States show this kind of interest in investing in community development and health centers is a testament to the vision shared by President Obama and Secretary Sebelius—a vision of increased access to affordable primary care,” said NACHC President and CEO, Tom Van Coverden, thanking the CDFI Fund Director and OFN CEO and President Mark Pinsky. “This is a huge step. We could not be happier and welcome this partnership.”
For more information about the Capacity Building Initiative and other trainings please visithttp://1.usa.gov/YOC8zu.
Bipartisan Legislation Would Expand Use of Volunteer Health Professionals at Community Health Centers
The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) is lauding bipartisan legislation that aims to remove barriers that prevent health professionals from volunteering their services at Community Health Centers. The Family Health Care Accessibility Act (S. 955) introduced by U.S. Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Bob Casey (D-PA) would amend the Public Health Service Act to extend Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) medical malpractice coverage to all qualified health care professionals who volunteer at health centers.
“Removing barriers for health care professionals to volunteer is very important in rural areas like South Dakota where people, often long distances from the nearest hospital, rely on CHCs for their primary health care,” said Senator Thune in a joint press release issued by their offices regarding the legislation. “Physicians are willing to help these local health centers, but are sometimes deterred by the high cost of medical malpractice insurance. Our common-sense bill would remove that barrier for qualified medical professionals and would enable thousands of people in underserved areas to receive access to high-quality medical care at a lower cost.”
“This is a commonsense solution to make it easier for highly skilled physicians to volunteer in their communities,” said Senator Casey. “When physicians are willing to volunteer their time to help a community, our government should do all it can to promote those efforts. This bill will do just that.”
“We deeply appreciate the hard work and thoughtful bipartisan leadership of Senators Thune and Casey in advancing legislation that will allow doctors and other health professionals to volunteer their skills and services at Community Health Centers, where the need for more providers is critical,” said Dan Hawkins, Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Research at NACHC. “Their efforts, and the support of their colleagues, will help with the recruitment of health professionals to medically underserved communities which face a great need for health professionals to keep pace with the current and future demand for primary and preventive health care services.”
Health center employees, contractors, and board members receive medical malpractice coverage through the FTCA, but doctors, dentists, and other health care professionals who wish to volunteer their services at health centers are required to provide their own medical malpractice coverage, which is extremely costly. The Family Health Care Accessibility Act (S. 955) would be paid for with existing funds under the Health Centers’ annual appropriations through the Department of Health and Human Services and would not require additional funding.
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