Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina announced new legislation to help expand and make permanent federal funding of community health centers across the country as the Senate anticipates a vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) that would impact the centers' financing.
"It's not just good enough that you have health insurance, but there's millions of Americans who have insurance and can't get to a dentist or doctor when they need to," Sanders told reporters on Monday.
"This week as President Trump and Senate Leader (Mitch) McConnell attempt to pass health care legislation which would throw many millions off of health care, our legislation moves in a very different way," said Sanders.
He added, "What we understand is that not only in America today, do 28 million have no insurance, but there are millions of additional people, including those who have insurance but can't gain access to a doctor or nurse because they live in an area without enough providers."
Sanders was instrumental in helping craft legislation to secure $11 billion in the Affordable Care Act that would expand access to community health centers for those who don't have access to a primary care physician.
An additional $1.5 billion went to the National Health Service Corps to provide funding and help repay loans of doctors who practice in underserved communities.
The legislation Sanders and Clyburn announced, The Community Health Center and Primary Care Workforce Expansion Act, would expand on Sander's previous work by increasing funding for health centers from $5.1 billion to $12.5 billion over next 10 years.
"Today as we look at what's going on in health care in America, we're determined to do everything we can do to expand access to health care for the millions of Americans who absolutely need that care," said Sanders.
Sanders told reporters that if passed, the legislation would allow health centers to service twice as many people as it currently does.
Clyburn echoed Sanders comments, saying the health centers serve communities that few other providers serve, and by passing the legislation, lawmakers could help "build on the success of the Affordable Care Act and not turn back the clock."
"The 'Trumpcare' bill on Senate floor right now goes in opposite direction, turning back clock and ripping away coverage and protections for millions, it's immoral and Congress must reject it," urged Clyburn.