Reform could strain community health centers

September 30, 2015

Congress and the White House moved earlier this year to meet some of the more urgent needs of the community health centers. The stimulus package signed into law in February included $2 billion, which will be doled out over two years, to help provide care for an additional three million patients by 2011. Some of the funding will go to building as many as 126 new clinics. Other money will be used to maintain or increase the number of doctors, nurses and other staff who work at the centers, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Recruiting more physicians and medical staff is a key goal for the centers, which traditionally have trouble meeting staffing needs, many say.

Often, because of the lower pay, doctors don’t perceive clinic work as part of their career path and instead choose private practice, typically in a specialized field, said Kurt Mosley, vice president of business operations for Staff Care and Merritt, Hawkins & Associates, companies that recruit physicians to fill temporary and permanent positions at hospitals and community health centers.

The health bills in Congress also address some of that need, adding millions of dollars to the National Health Service Corps to attract doctors to work in clinics and help them pay off their student loan debt.

The effort to recruit staff is an important addition to the health care proposals, officials said.

“It’s challenging,” said Vincent Keane, chief executive officer of Unity Health Centers, a nonprofit umbrella organization that supports Walker-Jones and 30 other Washington area facilities. “We’re trying to do more in retention.”


Planned new community health centers in the U.S. A list of health center awards by state   Find a health center near you

By Andrew Villegas, The Kaiser Family Foundation

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