Even though federal funding for community health centers received a boost in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), cuts to the program that were included in recent House-passed legislation – H.R. 1 – to fund the government for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 could put health centers at risk.

That message was conveyed to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), Education and Related Agencies during a March 11 hearing on the President’s FY 2012 budget. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stated that the $1 billion spending reduction for community health centers would cause many patients to lose access to care. Specifically, the National Association of Community Health Centers has stated that, if enacted, the cuts to health centers in H.R. 1 would cause an estimated 3.3 million patients to lose care within the next few months, with 11 million fewer patients being served over the course of the next year.

Labor-HHS Subcommittee Chairman Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) disagreed with the assertion, stating that while H.R. 1 would reduce funding by $1 billion, the mandatory funding that the PPACA provides for community health centers would cause the program to break even.

Either way, any final budget cuts for the remainder of FY 2011 will almost certainly be less than those included in H.R. 1, given the opposition that the bill faces in the Senate and at the White House.