Federal budget decision could affect healthcare as early as next week

Federal budget change could affect healthcare as early as next week

SC officials say $56 million could be lost if Congress doesn't take action on the federal budget. Dean Slade, like many others, is thinking about his next move now that Congress has a week to make a critical decision affecting community healthcare patients.

Slade has been a long-time patient of Eau Claire Health Center. It's one of 16 federally qualified health centers in South Carolina providing care to the low-income community.

Centers like Eau Claire face what's being called the funding cliff. The CHIME Act would extend federal funding to those centers for five years. Lawmakers would need to take action on it by September 30.

"If it weren't for places like [Eau Claire] these people would all be in the ER, creating havoc and expenses for healthcare as a whole," says Slade.

Lathran Woodard is C.E.O. of the South Carolina Primary Healthcare Assocation and says federally funded health centers would lose 70 percent of their federal dollars. Any loss of funding would affect more than 60,000 people in South Carolina.

"That impact will result in loss of services. It will also impact the local economy because these health centers, which are nonprofit local businesses are also contributing to the economy in terms of jobs and ER utilization," says Woodard.

Health centers would face budget cuts, affecting both patients and workers. Woodard urges leaders to not jeopardize that.

"It's going to be harder to make an appointment with my doctor. Hours of the clinic may be shortened. I'm 68 yrs old, I have high blood pressure, and I need the care of a physician. I have medicare but there are a lot of people under the age 64 that don't have insurance," says Slade.

Community health officials are urging people to call their congressmen to act on this situation on Monday. It's known as National Call In Day.

You can call your Members of Congress at 1-(866) 456-3949.

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