CHCW looks to Teaching Health Centers Program to help keep doctors in rural areas – Program funding to drop 37% leading to funding shortage

Yakima, WA – Community Health of Central Washington (CHCW), participated in National Community Health Centers Week (August 9th- 15th), celebrating the success of expanding access to vital primary and preventive health care to rural and underserved areas of the Central Washington service region. As part of the week, CHCW looked towards the future and, in particular, the Teaching Health Centers Program to help keep doctors local by teaching them in community settings, such as in a community health center setting.

CHCW’s family medicine residency training program, Central WA Family Residency Program, is currently funded through Medicare’s Graduate Medical Education program and by Teaching Health Centers Program (authorized in the Affordable Care Act, section 5308), and has the designation of a Teaching Health Center. The funding for this program is facing a near term shortfall.

“Washington State has benefited greatly from the Teaching Health Centers Program and has the most to lose as a result of cuts to the program,” says Mike Maples, MD, CEO of Community Health of Central WA.

The original Affordable Care Act appropriation for the program ($230M for 5 years, ending in FFY ‘15) got the program off to a good start. The new appropriation (part of HR 2) of $60M in 2016 and in 2017 represents a 37% cut to the program.

“This funding level assumes no increase in field strength, and threatens the ability of current participants to support their trainees in the future,” adds Maples.

The residency program is designed for participants to learn under three-year terms. Leaving the teaching health centers underfunded and looking for additional funding to support the vital last years of training. “There won’t be any reduction to the current residents in training, but it will affect future commitments and expansion,” confirms Maples.

A teaching health center is a community-based primary and preventive health care training program for medical and dental residents. One of the benefits of the program is that residents have the opportunity to develop their skills in the community, outside of a hospital setting. In addition, the potential of residents that stay in traditionally underserved areas after program completion is high, with more than 20 working in the Central WA region five years after graduation.