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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Deep spending cuts, such as those considered in the Governor's proposed biennial budget, would have severe effects on essential components of the state’s health care infrastructure, such as community health centers. Altogether, it is estimated that the Governor's budget would amount to a $250 to $350 million hit to community health center system. The table below summarizes the impact of selected cuts (click on it to see a larger version).

Community Health Centers have a unique role in the state’s health infrastructure. They provide a comprehensive scope of services to Washingtonians who would otherwise have limited access to quality affordable care. And they do so without regard to their ability to pay. In fact, 32 percent of their patients in 2007 were uninsured (see graph)

The cuts described above understate the situation faced by the community health center system because it also faces the impact of the recession. As people lose their jobs and therefore access to private health insurance, they are likely to become uninsured community health center patients. The need for these centers rises while their revenue falls.

Counting up the number of people who will directly lose coverage because of budget cuts also understates the effect on individual health care consumers. As community health centers reduce their services, it will have a detrimental impact on many more Washingtonians with lower incomes and special health needs.

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