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Engel Leads Bipartisan Group of NY Members in Urging More Funding for NY Health Centers in Midst of Coronavirus Outbreak

Engel Leads Bipartisan Group of NY Members in Urging More Funding for NY Health Centers in Midst of Coronavirus Outbreak

Congressman Eliot L. Engel, Co-Dean of the New York Congressional Delegation and a top Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, led a bipartisan group of 23 Members of the New York House Delegation today in urging the Trump Administration to prioritize federal funding for New York health centers.

“Nearly 400,000 of my constituents receive care at community health centers,” said Rep. Engel. “These centers are on the frontlines of providing care to vulnerable and underserved communities. In the current coronavirus pandemic, health centers are helping to bolster the safety-net and keep patients out of the hospital. It is critical that New York’s community health centers receive the federal resources they need to help end this crisis.”

New York’s health centers operate nearly 800 facilities and care for about 2.4 million New Yorkers or nearly 1 in 7 residents every year. They are on the frontlines of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, providing a range of services from coronavirus testing to telehealth services to those recovering at home.

Congressman Engel helped secure $1.3 billion in health center funding in the recently enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability (CARES) Act, better known as the Phase 3 stimulus bill. This bipartisan letter urges the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which oversees health center funding, to distribute grants from the $1.3 billion program to states with most cases of COVID-19 like New York State.

“We are at a crucial juncture in New York State, the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in our country, and community health centers are on the front lines, expending every resource to protect patients,” said Anne K. Nolon, CEO of Hudson River Health Care. “We stand alongside Congressman Engel, our other members of Congress, and fellow community health centers, in our request for HRSA to prioritize distributing funding to high impact areas at this critical time.”

“As we face an uncertain future, we thank Congressman Engel for his advocacy efforts to ensure that saving New York’s struggling Community Health Centers is priority number one when it comes to federal funding,” said Rose Duhan, President and CEO of the Community Health Care Association of New York State. “We brace for what’s next confident in the knowledge that our congressional delegation is doing everything possible to keep our doors open for anyone who needs our help now and for years to come.” 

Congressman Engel’s work to secure health center funding builds on his efforts to bring federal resources to New York State to help end the coronavirus outbreak. The Congressman also secured a delay in cuts to the Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payment as part of the CARES Act. This financial lifeline provides New York’s nearly 200 safety-net hospitals with about $1.8 billion in federal resources every year.

Text of the letter can be found below:

 

April 4, 2020

 

Thomas J. Engels

Administrator

Health Resources and Services Administration
Bureau of Primary Health Care
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857

 

Dear Administrator Engels:

 

We write to you today as Members of the New York Congressional Delegation as New York State has become the epicenter of the crisis and response to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. As you know, Community Health Centers (CHCs) are at the frontlines of this crisis, and in New York they provide medical care and testing for over 2.4 million low-income people. New York’s CHCs are grateful for the funds they have received to respond to COVID-19 thus far, however, we have heard a resounding message from our constituents: those funds, just $5.2 million to date, are not enough. New York State accounts for nearly half of all confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide, with 83,712 total positive tests as of Governor Cuomo’s press conference on April 2, 2020.  Moving forward, it is critical that any funds disseminated to CHCs to respond to COVID-19 be distributed based off community need, prioritizing the states and regions of the country that are in the height of COVID-19 response.

New York’s CHCs are experiencing immense financial strain due to COVID-19. Based on a recent survey conducted by the Community Health Care Association of New York State (CHCANYS), 91% of CHCs reported a decline in visit volume between March 14 and March 28, and on average, visit volume has decreased by 56% during that period, meaning lower revenues across sites. Health centers continue to provide essential services via telehealth and telephonic visits that keep patients out of the already overcrowded emergency rooms and hospitals.  However, reimbursement rates for these virtual visits are too low to sustain health centers’ exiting infrastructure. More than 70% of health centers have reduced scheduled hours for staff or even furloughed staff in the last month. Many CHCs have closed some sites and face the risk of full-scale closures.

Despite these hardships, New York’s CHCs continue to manage countless numbers of confirmed and unconfirmed COVID-19 patients at home using telehealth and telephonic visits, ensuring these patients do not visit an emergency room unless a trip is truly needed. They also continue to support their normal case load remotely, bringing patients in person only when truly medically necessary. The work of NY CHCs is critical to ensuring that the NY hospital systems can continue to treat true emergencies. We fear the effect on the surrounding hospital systems if NY CHCs become unable to continue their day to day operations.

If HRSA does not designate funds to areas of greatest need, New York’s health center network will be decimated during this unprecedented public health crisis. We must ensure that NY CHCs can adequately operate with peace of mind about their financial stability in the days and weeks to come and can continue to do what they do best- keep people healthy at home and out of the hospital.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,


Eliot L. Engel
Member of Congress


Nita M. Lowey
Member of Congress


Peter T. King
Member of Congress


Jerrold Nadler
Member of Congress


José E. Serrano
Member of Congress


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Member of Congress


Kathleen M. Rice
Member of Congress


Sean Patrick Maloney
Member of Congress


John Katko
Member of Congress


Paul D. Tonko
Member of Congress


Thomas R. Suozzi
Member of Congress


Nydia M. Velazquez
Member of Congress


Grace Meng
Member of Congress


Lee Zeldin
Member of Congress


Yvette D. Clarke
Member of Congress


Elise M. Stefanik
Member of Congress


Anthony Brindisi
Member of Congress


Antonio Delgado
Member of Congress


Tom Reed
Member of Congress


Hakeem Jeffries
Member of Congress


Adriano Espaillat
Member of Congress


Carolyn B. Maloney
Member of Congress


Gregory W. Meeks
Member of Congress


Brian Higgins
Member of Congress

 

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