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.
For those in poor urban neighborhoods and isolated rural areas, including Indian reservations, the clinics are often the only dependable providers of basic services like prenatal care, childhood immunizations, asthma treatments, cancer screenings and tests for sexually transmitted diseases….
With the health centers now serving more than 16 million patients at 7,354 sites, the expansion has been the largest since the program’s origins in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty, federal officials said…. The centers now serve one of every three people who live in poverty and one of every eight without insurance.
But there’s more work to be done. An August study found that 43 percent of the country’s medically underserved areas lack a health center site and the National Association of Community Health Centers and the American Academy of Family Physicians estimated last year that 56 million people are “medically disenfranchised” because they cannot reach adequate primary care. There’s hope that Obama will expand the centers’ reach when in office. His healthcare point man, Tom Daschle, referred to them as a “godsend” in a recent book, and Michelle Obama worked with community health centers when vice president at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Just another factor in the amazingly complex quest to get every American healthcare, one that President Bush deserves a degree of credit for.