The grant money for construction projects, authorized by the Affordable Care Act, will create “thousands of jobs nationwide,” HHS said.
The funding also will expand the infrastructure for Obamacare, the law that injects government mandates into the health insurance market.
“For many Americans, community health centers are the major source of care that ranges from prevention to treatment,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “These funds will expand our ability to provide high-quality care to millions of people while supporting good paying jobs in communities across the country.”
Most of the taxpayer money -- $600 million – will be spent on existing health centers for longer-term projects including facility expansion and hiring more employees to serve more patients. The remainder, around $100 million, will be spent on shorter-term projects addressing “immediate facility needs.”
HHS says the nation’s 8,100 community health centers are an important source of local employment and economic growth in underserved and low-income communities.
The centers also are “poised to play an essential role in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” HHS says on its Web site.
The $700 million announced on Friday is just the beginning: Over the next five years, the Affordable Care Act provides $11 billion in funding for the operation, expansion and construction of community health centers across the country.
In 2010, community health centers employed more than 131,000 staff, including 9,600 physicians, 6,400 nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants, and certified nurse midwives, 11,400 nurses, 9,500 dental staff, 4,200 behavioral health staff, and more than 12,000 case managers and health education, outreach, and transportation staff. The centers currently serve nearly 20 million patients regardless of their ability to pay.