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Do not touch health centers

October 17, 2011
Morning Journal News


Congress is under tremendous pressure to get our nation's fiscal house in order. The debate now is not which programs to cut, but by how much. I believe that is a dangerous proposition for the Community Health Centers of the Community Action Agency of Columbiana County. Congress needs to hold Community Health Centers harmless.

More than 23 million Americans rely on Community Health Centers for primary and preventative care, including over a half million Ohioans. This primary and preventative care helps save more than $1,200 per patient annually, saves millions of dollars for the Medicaid program and keeps patients out of far more costly places, like emergency rooms. Health Centers currently serve 14 percent of all Medicaid beneficiaries at a total cost of only 1 percent of Medicaid spending. Deep cuts to Community Health Centers will shift patients to more expensive health care alternatives and cost the taxpayers even more.

The Community Health Centers of the Community Action Agency serve over 10,000 unduplicated patients annually. Last year we provided almost 40,000 primary care medical and dental visits to area residents. Our health centers are conveniently located and accessible to all residents of Columbiana County. We serve uninsured patients through a sliding fee scale that discounts patient care according to the patient's family size and income. In 2010, we provided nearly $1.2 million in discounted care. In 2010 our Health Centers employed 42 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff and had an annual payroll of more than $2.1 million. Funding cuts will result in staff reductions and an increase in the number of county residents who are unemployed.

As a taxpayer and an employee of the Community Health Center at Community Action Agency, I ask our members of Congress to hold Community Health Centers harmless in its deficit reduction plan. Health Center funding cuts will drive patients to more expensive options that won't reduce the cost of government.

Beth Weir.

Chief operating officer

CAA Health Centers



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