"One out of every six rural Americans" and "one in four low-income people of color" is currently being served by the country's network of community health centers, according to Sanders. These centers serve as primary care facilities, thus providing a consistent treatment alternative to last minute emergency room visits, which drive up health care costs. One report from the Community Health Foundation states that, "In 2009 health centers serve 19 million patients. This generates health system savings of $24 billion in 2009 because of the substantially lower overall cost of care by health centers when compared with non-users."
Vermont is one of the leaders in establishing a network of community health centers, and would only gain two more from the $10 billion infusion. At issue, however, is approximately one-third of the U.S. population, the "96 million residents of medically underserved urban and rural communities because of their heightened need for primary health care and the role of health insurance reform on expanding primary care capacity," according to RCHN.
Dr. Lesley Russell, a visiting fellow at the Center for American Progress, and author of a recently released report, "Equal Health Care for All," points out that "about half the U.S. population will be made up of those who are now minorities by 2042, which means that their health status increasingly defines that of the nation."
. . . In her report, Russell acknowledged that "relatively little progress has been made toward the goal of eliminating racial and ethnic disparities." The list includes disparities in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, immunizations, hepatitis, STDs, and tuberculosis. For example, "The mortality rate for African Americans," Russell wrote, "is approximately 1.6 times higher than for white people - a ratio that is identical to the black-white mortality ratio in 1950."
. . . The House version of the health care bill already includes a $14 billion allocation for the expansion of community health centers. Thus, there is optimism among advocates that the conference committee between the two chambers may yield more than $10 billion in the final version.