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Community Health Centers Reauthorization Cleared for White House

On September 24, the Senate approved, by unanimous consent, the Health Care Safety Net Act of 2008 (H.R. 1343), after adopting a substitute amendment by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), also by unanimous consent. The House agreed to the Senate amendment, by voice vote, on September 25. The House approved the measure on June 4 (see The Source, 6/6/08). The president is expected to sign the bill into law.

The substitute amendment would require the comptroller general to issue, within two years of enactment, a cost-benefit analysis report of school-based health centers, including their effect on disease prevention and their impact on the health of students in rural and underserved areas.

The secretary of Health and Human Services and the Government Accountability Office also would be required to issue reports on the quality of care provided by health care centers and on the delivery of care to medically underserved and rural populations, respectively.

The bill would authorize $2.065 billion for FY2008, $2.313 billion for FY2009, $2.602 billion for FY2010, $2.94 billion for FY2011, and $3.337 billion for FY2012. Federal health centers were last reauthorized in 2002 (P.L. 107-251); their current authorization expired at the end of FY2006.

Rural health care programs would be reauthorized under this bill. Such programs would receive $45 million per year for FY2008-2012.

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