End the Uncertainty for Those at the Front Line of Coronavirus Crisis Response

Written by Governor Mike Leavitt, Founder; Chair, Board of Managers, at Leavitt Partners

As the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) prepares to start disbursing funds from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, as appropriated by Congress in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, it is critical that all providers on the front-lines of this pandemic receive this emergency aid. This includes community health centers, rural health clinics, and small and large physician group practices.

One of the provider types hit hardest by COVID-19 is community health centers. I have had the opportunity to work with community health centers for decades—first as the governor of Utah and then as the secretary of HHS under President George Bush’s leadership where I proudly oversaw a doubling in the number of these centers nationwide. The coronavirus crisis poses an unprecedented challenge to our nation, and health centers and their workers are at the front lines providing life-saving care for Americans, including in rural and underserved communities.

Like other providers, community health centers are facing increased financial pressure. In compliance with state and local mandates, many health centers have closed dental offices, primary care offices, and limited other care delivery, while simultaneously increasing access to COVID-19 testing in some of our hardest-to-reach communities.

While Congress provided some limited funding for community health centers in the CARES Act, it is not nearly enough to offset the financial challenges that these critical providers are facing. Given how the coronavirus crisis has changed the landscape since the passage of this bill, immediate funding from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to community health centers for coronavirus-related needs must be disbursed.

Some centers report losing millions of dollars a month while continuing to staff local city and county testing sites and providing front-line care to individuals that may have been exposed to COVID-19. It is critical that HHS provide support from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to these providers, so that they can continue to provide this critical care, at this critical moment. If HHS does not act soon, considerable damage will be done to community health centers and the fragile population they care for at a time of greatest need.