Health centers across the country are hoping lawmakers on Capitol Hill will extend federal funding, including those here in Central Illinois. Critical funding for health centers and other programs expired on Oct. 1st of last year. Then this month funding lapsed for Heartland, although lawmakers extended that funding into March. But, if lawmakers can't reach a deal by then or don't include funding in their new budget, Heartland says it would cause a crisis in their field.
On a national level there are some reports indicating that a shutdown and losing federal dollars could mean the closure of some 2,800 health facilities. As for Heartland Health Services, they say they were getting about $2.4 million a year in federal funding. But, if that funding is not renewed they could lose 70 percent of that at the end of the month. That adds up to a $1.7 million dollar loss.
For over 50 years federally-qualified health clinics have received bipartisan support and steady funding. Doctor Gregg Stoner, with Heartland, said this is the first time it's been delayed.
"It means we would have considerable problems running our clinics and taking care of the patients we currently take care of," stated Stoner.
Heartland serves over 20,000 people in the Tri-County area, with seven offices, providing things like primary care to adults and children.
Vice President of Marketing Jamie Messmore said, "It makes [patients] nervous because so many people rely on Heartland and nationwide rely on federally qualified health centers."
Heartland said they are in a more fortunate situation as their board and leadership has planned for this. They have been exploring ways to be efficient with their resources. They hope to keep their staff full while not sacrificing patient care.
This, however, is not the case for other health centers around the country.
"The reality for other health centers across the nation who are not as large or financially sound have already had to start making those staff cuts and looking at patient care and making changes and maybe closing health centers," said Messmore.