The U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services announced over $122 million in grants to California community health clinics on Tuesday – two of them in South Los Angeles.
Central City Community Health Center and South Central Family Health Center were two of 227 clinics nationwide to receive funding through President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) to address pressing facility and equipment needs.
Central City will receive $464,028; South Central Family will get $500,000.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius credited the ACA with "making community health centers in California stronger."
"For many Americans, community health centers are the major source of care that ranges from prevention to treatment of chronic disease," she said in a statement. "This investment will expand our ability to provide high-quality care to millions of people while supporting good-paying jobs in communities across the country.
The funding for clinics' renovation and construction projects announced on Tuesday totaled $728 million across the nation. The grants are part of a series of capital investments made available to community health centers through the ACA, which provides for $9.5 billion to expand services over five years and $1.5 billion to support major construction and renovation projects.
The funding announced today was the final installment of that $1.5 billion.
In a tele-press conference, Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, warned that congressional Republicans are working hard to repeal the ACA. She said that over the next two years, the ACA will support 485 new construction and renovation projects of health centers, 245 new sites and 6,000 news jobs.
"Without the health care law," she said, "these centers will not be built and these jobs will not come online." And, she added, 1.3 million patients "will have to look for health care elsewhere."
The ACA is currently under review in the Supreme Court, with an opinion on its constitutionality expected sometime in June. Muñoz declined to engage in "what-ifs" regarding what would happen to this funding should the ACA be struck down.
"We're not going to speculate on what the Supreme Court may or may not do – we don't have a crystal ball," she said. "We're moving forward with this law."
Jerra Ferguson, the development director for South Central Family, said the grant would fund the clinic's Huntington Park location. The money, she said, would allow the center to expand facilities in order to serve 3,000 additional patients – and, for the first time, offer dental care.
"The fact that we got the funding is going to help us address the need, but the need is still very overwhelming," she said. "When you have a segment of the population that's about 64 percent under-served residents – just look at that percentage. And that percentage is growing. So we're going to have a positive impact, but it by no means is going to solve all the health disparities."
By under-served, Ferguson means a "population that is facing not only health challenges, but financial challenges, a high unemployment rate and high health disparities." It's also a population, she added, that's not always aware of the health care options that are available to them.
Central City had not returned calls requesting comment as of press time.
In a report released by the White House, the Obama Administration said nearly 3 million new patients are receiving care in community health centers because of the ACA – upping the nation's total of community health clinic patients from 17 million in 2008 to 20 million in 2011.
The report also pointed out that of those 20 million people, approximately two-thirds are minorities; 40 percent have no health insurance and nearly 33 percent are children. It added that one out of 16 people in the U.S. depends on a health clinic for primary care, the majority being 25 to 64 years old.
California has received the most funds for capital development through the ACA by far – more than $413 million between 2009 and 2012. Massachusetts ranks a distant second with more than $188 million over the same amount of time.