One Good Thing about George W. Bush

Monday, December 29, 2008
In our ongoing attempt to find something good about President Bush’s legacy (see In Praise of George Bush), we turn to his support for community health centers. Kevin Sack of The New York Times writes, “Although the number of uninsured and the cost of coverage have ballooned under his watch, President Bush leaves office with a health care legacy in bricks and mortar: he has doubled federal financing for community health centers, enabling the creation or expansion of 1,297 clinics in medically underserved areas. [The expansion is the greatest since Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty]… Mr. Bush came to admire the missionary zeal and cost-efficiency of the not-for-profit community health centers which qualify for federal operating grants by being located in designated underserved areas and treating patients regardless of their ability to pay. He pledged support for the program while campaigning for president in 2000 on a platform of ‘compassionate conservatism.’” Health centers serve 16 million patients at 7,354 sites, and according to their trade association they save the health care system $17.6 billion a year by keeping patients out of hospitals. The centers have received federal encouragement to accommodate all in need, including illegal immigrants. As Barack Obama pushes for his $100 billion health plan to provide coverage for the uninsured, he also needs to consider the availability of treatment. The Government Accountability Office found in August that 43% of the nation’s underserved communities lack a health center. Furthermore, despite the increase in funding, government grants account for only 19% of health centers’ revenue, compared to 22% in 2001, with the majority coming from programs like Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.


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