Community health centers holding their breath, waiting for congressional action

CINCINNATI -- James Berrens, CEO of Crossroad Community Health Center in Over-the-Rhine, is used to Congress approving the federal funds on which his clinic relies at the last minute.

But this year, he's worried the approval might not come at all.

Although Republican efforts to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act before 2018 have definitively failed, low-cost health care remains in limbo across the Tri-State and the country. As of Friday, Congress had yet to approve a new funding package for the Community Health Centers Fund, which helps clinics like Crossroad provide affordable care to American families on Medicare and Medicaid.

"Seventy-five percent of our patients are on Medicare," Berrens said. "Another 10 percent are uninsured."

Without centers like his and Lincoln Heights Health Center, those patients might not have an accessible option for care. And without federal funding, those options simply can't do their job.

"The funding is operating for our health center," Lincoln Heights Health Center outreach and enrollment manager Charles Woods said. "(It) pays for doctors, pays for providers, pays for ancillary services."

If the money doesn't come through by January, Woods estimated his organization would have to cut around 4,000 patients to stay afloat.

"Unfortunately, the need is growing," Berrens said. "We cannot take a hit like this."

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