Health Care

Area health clinics could get fewer funds if budget cuts go into effect

Some local health clinics could lose up to 5 percent of the funds they receive through federal grants if budget cuts take effect Friday as planned.

“We’re all going to share the pain,” said Dave Sanford, GraceMed CEO. “We hope to make that funding up from other sources, but we’re not sure where that would be.”

The funding cuts are part of what is known as sequestration, which is a package of federal budget cuts that go into effect because President Obama and Congress could not agree on a spending-and-revenue plan more than 18 months ago. The cuts had been set to go into effect at the start of 2013, but Congress and the president agreed to push off the date to the end of February.

Sanford says the cuts would equal a loss of about $60,000 in federal funds for GraceMed. He said the cut could affect staffing and the number of patients the clinics could see next year.

“It could mean about 1,400 unduplicated patients we would not be able to serve,” he said.

The reimbursement rates for providing care to people on Medicare and Medicaid would not change as part of the cuts, Sanford said.

Last year, GraceMed clinics served more than 29,000 unduplicated patients.

“Cuts to domestic programs, like to Federally Qualified Health Centers, has always been on the table,” Sanford said. “Some in Congress want to take more of a scalpel instead of hatchet approach, but the whole idea of the automatic cuts was to force Congress to develop a budget.”

According to the National Association of Community Health Centers, up to 900,000 patients could be affected by the budget cuts nationwide. In total, health care centers around the country could face up to $120 million in funding cuts, the NACHC says.

Teresa Lovelady, CEO and president of the Center for Health and Wellness in Wichita, said the cuts could mean about $125,000 less, or 750 fewer patient visits, for her clinic.

The center serves about 4,000 people each year, Lovelady said. About 40 percent of patients are uninsured and about 54 percent of those patients are employed, she said.

Hunter Health Clinic is also a Federally Qualified Health Center. No representatives from the clinic were available for comment.

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