The Senate on Monday by unanimous consent approved a bill (S 901) that would reauthorize through 2012 three federal programs that provide services to rural and underserved areas, CongressDaily reports.
The legislation, proposed by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), would provide $12.9 billion over five years to community health centers and other similar rural health care services. The bill also allocates a portion of the money to the National Health Service Corps, which assigns physicians and nurses to serve residents living in rural and underserved areas (CongressDaily, 7/22).
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a co-sponsor of the legislation, said that since 2001, additional funding provided under the bill has allowed health centers in more than 750 communities nationwide to provide care to about four million new patients. Hatch said, "These centers provide affordable and quality care to at-risk Americans who otherwise might have to do without" (Salt Lake City Deseret News, 7/22). Committee ranking member Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) said that community health centers "ensure that people can get the primary health care services they need and cut down on costs for everyone by reducing the need for expensive emergency room care" (CongressDaily, 7/22).