Trahan Supports Increased Community Health Center Funding, Legislation Moves to House Floor
Washington, May 24, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee, advocated for and passed increased federal funding for Community Health Centers and Teaching Health Centers out of the Energy and Commerce Committee. The legislation now moves to the House floor for a vote.
“Facilities like Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, Lowell Community Health Center, and Community Health Connections are pillars in our community that hardworking families depend on to build a better life. They’re part of a network of community health centers in Massachusetts that provides critical care to over one million people each year,” said Congresswoman Trahan. “The increase in funding we passed with bipartisan support in the Energy and Commerce Committee today proves that their herculean efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. We should be building on the efforts of our health centers, and this legislation will help do that. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this legislation on the House floor and in the Senate so it can be signed into law.”
Footage of Trahan’s remarks during the House Energy and Commerce Committee markup can be accessed by clicking HERE or the image below. A full transcript of the exchange is included below.
H.R. 2559, the Supporting Patients, Health Care Workers, Community Health Centers, and Hospitals Act, would extend the Community Health Center Fund for the next two years at $4.2 billion per year, a 5% increase from current levels. It would also extend the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program through 2029, beginning at $175 million in 2024 and increasing to $275 million in 2029.
Trahan has been a vocal advocate for community health centers and teaching health centers, particularly those in the Third District. Greater Lawrence Family Health Center is the first Teaching Health Center of its kind, and Lowell Community Health Center recently received federal grant funding to establish a teaching health center program of its own. Since arriving in Congress, Trahan has worked across the aisle to increase funding for teaching health centers and has continued to secure funding for each health center in the district through the American Rescue Plan and various other grants.
“In 1994, Greater Lawrence Family Health Center became the first accredited Community Health Center-sponsored Family Physician Residency in the country. In 2011, Lawrence Family Medicine Residency was recognized by HRSA as one of the nation’s first Teaching Health Centers under the Affordable Care Act,” said Dr. Guy Fish, President and CEO of Greater Lawrence Family Health Center. “We pride ourselves in creating learning environments where healthcare professionals can develop the necessary expertise in Family Medicine to care for individuals and families in underserved communities where it is needed the most. There is a growing shortage of family physicians across the country, making our residency program even more vital to the future health of our community. We are grateful for leaders like Congresswoman Trahan who understand that investing in community health centers is essential in providing accessible, high-quality healthcare for all.”
“We are grateful to Congresswoman Trahan for championing the value and impact of community health centers, and the need for funding that we can count on to assure that our community has access to equitable, affordable health care,” said Susan West Levine, CEO of Lowell Community Health Center. “Equally vital is the need to address the critical health care workforce shortage by creating and sustaining a pipeline of providers and other health care workers by supporting teaching health centers.”
“Community Health Connections is truly grateful for Congresswoman Trahan’s unwavering support of community health centers. It is gratifying to see that there is bipartisan support of the work that we do to provide needed healthcare services to people in our communities,” said John DeMalia, Community Health Connections President & CEO. “We take it very seriously that we are the safety net provider to ensure that no one goes without the healthcare that they need. With Congresswoman Trahan’s continued support we plan on being here to continue to meet those needs.”
“We are so grateful to Congresswoman Trahan for her leadership and powerful advocacy in helping to advance HR 2559, a bill to both extend and increase essential core operating funding for community health centers,” said Michael Curry, president and CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. “Support for this bill is a critical step in the process to avert a devastating 70 percent reduction in health center funding if Congress does not act by September, and is yet another example of how the Congresswoman continues to provide a lifeline for health centers as they work to meet the deferred care needs of their communities still reeling from the repercussions of the pandemic. What’s more, Congresswoman Trahan is focused on addressing our immediate and long-term workforce needs through her efforts to expand Teaching Health Centers, a community-based primary care training model based on the pioneering work of Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, and critical for strengthening the workforce pipeline at health centers. We couldn’t be more thankful for her leadership and partnership.”
Community health centers deliver high-quality, affordable health care to the nation’s most vulnerable communities, serving as a critical source of primary care for over 30 million patients. In Massachusetts, 52 community health centers serve more than one million people each year through their more than 300 access sites.
Congresswoman Lori Trahan
Remarks as Delivered
Energy & Commerce Committee
May 24, 2023
I thank the Chair. In the district I represent, Greater Lawrence Family Health Center proudly operates a teaching health center. In fact, it was the first teaching health center established under HRSA’s Teaching Health Center’s GME program more than a decade ago. Since then hundreds of residents have graduated from their program, including 11 this year. As we speak, another 32 residents are currently training in their four-year curriculum that exposes family medicine specialists to an array of medical needs in one of the most diverse communities in Massachusetts.
The success we’ve seen at Greater Lawrence Family Health Center is far from an outlier. In fact, during this past academic year, THCGME programs supported nearly 1,000 residents at 72 community health centers across the country. And as Congressman Ruiz mentioned, many of those physicians will go on to serve traditionally underserved communities that their health centers cater to. A HRSA-commissioned study found that 82% of Teaching Health Center’s GME residents will go on to practice in the specialties they trained in, and over half will practice in medically underserved areas. That means that with each passing academic year, we’re adding more and more trained physicians in communities that desperately need primary care specialists – something that’s more important than ever as we face critical workforce shortages across the health care industry.
Recently, Lowell Community Health Center – the health center based in my hometown – received a grant to plan and develop a new teaching health center primary care residency training program in family medicine. This is particularly exciting for those of us who have seen the tremendous results down the road in Lawrence and want to replicate that in Lowell. However, while HRSA awarded more than 90 Planning and Development grants over the past three years, there are challenges for health centers to achieve THC status.
That’s why I’m particularly pleased that our bill today would reauthorize this program for six years – the longest period this committee has ever reauthorized it – and would permit greater certainty for medical students. This will allow for community health centers like Lowell to have greater clarity and certainty that they will be able to build up their THC program beyond the planning and development stage.
I thank my colleagues on the committee for their support for this program, and I look forward to working with them to make this funding permanent to provide even greater assurance for THC programs across the country.
Madam Chair, I’d also like to underscore the importance of ensuring health centers aren’t left hanging out to dry if there’s a funding cliff later this year. Community health centers in Massachusetts alone serve over one million patients each year, and the grant funding we’re moving through committee today is critical to their operations. We must ensure there is not a loss of funding – which would be devastating as we continue to improve access for all communities.
Finally, as this committee continues the important work of lowering health care costs for hardworking families, promoting price transparency, and encouraging competition among providers, it’s imperative that we keep in mind the essential hospitals across our nation who have been on the front lines for the past three years helping us navigate extremely challenging times.
Many safety net hospitals continue to struggle financially today, and we have a duty to ensure these hospitals can keep their doors open and continue delivering the best care possible to the communities they serve. That’s why I’m working with some members of our committee to draft and pass a federal definition of “essential hospitals” to set the basis for more appropriate reimbursement for these facilities.
I am eager to partner with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on this important issue.
I thank the Chair again, and I yield back the balance of my time.