Nearly a month after Congress allowed funding for multiple critical health programs to lapse, sending states scrambling to find emergency funding, the House of Representatives voted Friday on a legislative package to reauthorize the programs.

The bill, which allocates money for the Community Health Center Fund for two years, passed on a 242-174 vote. 

If the legislation passes in the Senate, Federally Qualified Healthcare Centers would avert a 70 percent reduction in federal funding. Many have been planning for the worst after Congress missed a Sept. 30 deadline, including freezing hiring, planning staff lay-offs and delaying facility renovations and expansions, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers

Legislation passed in the House Friday included a provision introduced by Congressman David Valadao, R-Hanford, to nearly double the funding for the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program to $126.5 million over two years.

“I applaud my colleagues in the House of Representatives for passing this legislation, which extends funding for the critical health care programs my constituents depend upon," Valadao said. "The Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program ensures our most disadvantaged communities have access to the medical professionals and health care services they deserve.”

The program allows medical residents to practice at FQHCs. In areas like Kern County, much of which is designated by the federal government as a medically underserved area, those residents are vital to providing care, health care leaders say.

The Sept. 30 deadline was largely overshadowed by Congressional efforts to pass the Graham-Cassidy bill, which would have made good on President Donald J. Trump’s campaign promise to “repeal and replace,” the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

If the Senate doesn’t pass the legislation by the new year, Community Health Centers, including those locally, would be stripped of millions of dollars in funding. Clinica Sierra Vista, the San Joaquin Valley’s largest FQHC, stood to lose $16 million alone, and roughly 30,000 patients would have lost care, according to company estimates.

Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce

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