Courtesy of the Community Health Center Association of Connecticut
Charter Oak Health Center in Hartford will lose its funding (Courtesy of the Community Health Center Association of Connecticut)

HARTFORD, CT — It doesn’t look likely, but Connecticut’s congressional delegation is taking every opportunity to remind their Republicans colleagues who control Congress that they should fund the community health centers and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The two programs expired at the end of September and Congress has failed to take action.

In 2016, the sixteen federally qualified community health centers in Connecticut received $41 million from the Community Health Center Fund and they served more than 375,000 patients.

A majority of those patients had Medicaid and about 16 percent were uninsured.

“Without this funding, they will have to look at layoffs and scaling back services,” Deb Polun, senior director of policy and outreach at the Community Health Center Association of Connecticut , said Wednesday.

She said already the centers have been trying to find savings through staff attrition, which means patients may have had to wait longer to receive medical care.

Since the federal funding is received by the 16 centers at different times, the impact may vary, but starting in January the Charter Oak Health Center in Hartford and Generations Family Health Center in Willimantic, which has three satellite locations, will only get two more months of funding. Three health centers have February start dates and will only get one more month of funding.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy addressed the issue Tuesday during his floor speech.

“Many health centers in Connecticut on January 1 will lose more than half of their funding and they will shut their doors to thousands and thousands of people,” Murphy said.

He added, “In rural America, the slashing of community health center funding will be absolutely devastating, because it is sometimes these community health centers that are the only way for some people to get care, particularly mental health care and addiction care.”

Polun said the “good news they haven’t lost the money yet, but the bad news is the delay in congressional action has already created uncertainty and has lead to problems getting access.”

The Connecticut Department of Social Services sent out notices last week to parents and caregivers for 17,000 children and teens in low-income households who receive what’s called Husky B.

The notice warns parents to enroll their children in new health coverage. Coverage they likely won’t be able to afford.

Murphy told the story about Adrianna Bigard of Hamden Tuesday.

He said the single mom is working as a public relations specialist but can’t afford the insurance her employer offers for her 6-year-old son.

“She is one of the millions of Americans who is working, who is playing by the rules, but is living paycheck to paycheck,” Murphy said.

Murphy said Bigard has told his office that “If HUSKY B goes away, if CHIP goes away, once all benefits, taxes, et cetera, are paid, I will not have enough money left in my paycheck to pay my rent.”

He said that means Bigard’s holiday season has been consumed with worry about this issue.

He said the inaction by Congress means “on January 31, Adrianna will not have enough money to pay her rent or she will have to leave her son uninsured. That will be her choice come Jan 31. That’s a pretty terrible, awful way for her to spend her holiday season.”

Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management warned in his monthly budget letter Wednesday that “If this program is not reauthorized before the end of January, not only will more than 17,000 children and youths lose health insurance coverage, but services currently reimbursed by the federal government at the enhanced CHIP matching rate will be reduced to the regular Medicaid matching rate, resulting in additional state costs of $20 million.”