Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Local health centers reauthorized under federal spending bill

The Spokane Teaching Health Clinic. Funding for 18 residents in family and internal medicine at the clinic was reauthorized under the spending bill passed Friday. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane’s medical residents and community health center patients received two more years of federal funding in the spending bill signed into law Friday.

The bill reauthorizes community health centers and teaching health centers, two community health programs with bipartisan support that have been in fiscal limbo since September.

Teaching health center funding would double to $126.5 million per year for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, an increase that’s intended to fully fund the actual cost of a medical resident. The reauthorization with increased funding was originally introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in the summer of 2017.

Teaching health center residency slots are intended to increase the number of doctors training in rural and medically underserved areas, a description that includes most of Eastern Washington.

In Spokane, teaching health center funding pays for 18 residents in family and internal medicine at the Spokane Teaching Health Clinic.

The average cost for a medical resident is about $157,000 per year, but prior funding only gave teaching health centers about $95,000 per resident per year.

The new funding is intended to raise the amount so it’s in line with actual costs, said Jared Powell, McMorris Rodgers’ spokesman.

“With today’s announcement of the federal government budget bill … our Spokane Student Teaching Health Center is on solid footing to continue its mission to train physicians in primary care,” said Jim Zimmerman, vice dean of administration, accreditation and finance at Washington State University’s College of Medicine, in an email.

Community Health Association of Spokane will have some financial security with an additional two years of funding for community health centers: $3.8 billion in fiscal year 2018, and $4 billion in 2019. Those funds help CHAS cover the cost of serving patients without health insurance.

CHAS had been holding off on moving forward with planned expansions until long-term funding was secured, CEO Aaron Wilson said.

“We are relieved that the health center funding cliff has been fixed, and again, appreciate the bipartisan support CHAS Health and other community health centers across the country have received,” Wilson said in an email. “With funding fully restored, we are looking forward to returning our focus to expanding programs and ensuring all patients throughout our community have access to high quality primary care services.”

The Children’s Health Insurance Program also received funding for another four years, extending it through 2027.