More Money To Community Health Care Centers And An Important Improvement To Cantwell's Basic Health Program

Looking through the manager's amendment, one of the best pieces of pure good news is the extra money going to community health care centers and the National Health Service Corps fund. Community health care centers provide the vital service of getting individual cost effective primary care. If your goal is to increase access to “health care” and not just something called “health insurance,” I don't think there is a better way to spend federal dollars than on the expansion of community health care centers.

Bernie Sanders has been a strong advocate of community health care centers and has been pushing for increased funding. This extra money brings the total of new money directed to community health care centers to $10 billion. (It is important to remember that this is still $4 billion less than what is provided for in the House bill.)

Cantwell's Basic Health Program

Another small but potentially important change was made to Cantwell's Basic Health program. States can set up a Basic Health program for their citizens between 133-200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). The Basic Health program is like a better designed exchange which more closely resembles the health care systems of Switzerland, the Netherlands, or Belgium (although still not as good as they are). The biggest hindrance to the Basic Health program was that states choosing to create one would only get 85% of the money the federal government would have otherwise spent on tax credits for qualified individuals.

I previously expressed concern that losing that extra money would strongly discourage states from taking part in the Basic Health program. The managers amendment has improved this problem by allowing states to get 95% (instead of 85%) of the money that the federal government would otherwise have spent. This change to increased funding should encourage more states to create Basic Health programs, and in the long run could end up saving the federal government even more money. That said, I still think states should get 100% of the money, and not just 95%, if they choose to create a Basic Health program.

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