Community Health Centers (Health Centers) are the backbone of our nation’s healthcare system. Health Centers like Variety Care design innovative, integrated primary care and programs based on communities' needs. Last year, Health Centers provided access to affordable, quality healthcare for over 31 million people. In addition to creating jobs, fueling the local economy, and saving lives, Health Centers save American taxpayers $24 billion a year in healthcare costs by preventing and managing chronic diseases and by keeping people well.
Oklahoma’s Health Centers are pioneers and problem-solvers. Combining medical, dental, mental health, pharmacy, and other services, they embrace whole person care by providing access to necessities like transportation, food, and housing. Health Centers care for everyone, regardless of insurance status, and provide discounts based on income and household size. During disasters, pandemics, and job losses, Health Centers continue providing life-saving, preventative care, keeping Oklahomans healthy. In 2022 Health Centers in Oklahoma served 330,000, by far our state's largest primary care network.
Health Center care teams help families navigate the complicated and oftentimes unaffordable web of healthcare services beyond the walls of the Health Center. People often struggle with access to prevention before becoming a Health Center patient. They have had to wait until something goes wrong before seeking care later rather than sooner. Treatment is usually more costly, less effective, and invasive when that happens. Health Centers avoid that by providing easy, affordable access to prevention, which creates better outcomes. A healthier Oklahoma means a more successful Oklahoma – in the classroom and the workplace.
We thank Oklahoma's congressional delegation for supporting Variety Care and all local Health Centers across the state. Health Centers have made much progress in Oklahoma. As a stabilizing force throughout the pandemic, they are prepared to meet the challenges ahead. This month, Congress must pass reauthorization and approve stable funding for Health Centers, giving them the ongoing means to serve hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans. Health Centers are a win for the patient, the health system, the taxpayer, and the community.
Leigh Ann Albers is Chair of the Variety Care Foundation Board of Directors,a registered nurse and community philanthropist and volunteer.