Senators Push $50 Million for School-Based Health Care
CQ HEALTHBEAT NEWS
July 26, 2010 – 4:39 p.m.
By Jane Norman, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor
Seven senators are appealing for $50 million for school-based health clinics as senators begin work on appropriations measures in that chamber.
In a letter to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the senators ask for money for school-based health centers that are struggling to keep their doors open in the midst of the economic downturn and local budget cutbacks.
In the House version of the health care overhaul, the centers were authorized for $50 million for fiscal 2011 and beyond. But a specific dollar amount was not cited in the Senate version, and that is what became law. Advocates are appealing to Appropriations subcommittees for the spending.
Harkin is the chairman of the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and its bill is scheduled for markup in that panel on Tuesday and in the full committee on Thursday.
The House’s Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee did not allocate money for the centers in the draft bill it approved on July 15.
The senators wrote that there are nearly 2,000 school-based health care centers (SBHCs) across the country that provide high-quality care to 1.7 million students at school.
"Yet in the current economic climate, many SBHCs are at risk of cutting services or even closing," wrote the senators. "Faced with their own spending pressures and decreased revenues, state and local governments have slashed funding to SBHCs. Moreover, insufficient reimbursement for patient services makes it hard for SBHCs to make ends meet. Funding the SBHC program would allow threatened centers to retain the nurses, pediatricians, and physician assistants who provide care to our youth."
The letter was signed by Democrats Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, Al Franken of Minnesota, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.