Stimulus money goes to community health centers

More jobs and better health care.

President Barack Obama has been vague about details of his healthcare reform efforts, but he provided a hint on Monday of one direction he could take — community health centers.

As he announced the nominations of his two top health executives, Obama highlighted the allocation of $155 million to 126 community health centers as part of the $787 billion economic stimulus package.

“These health centers will expand access to care by helping people in need — many with no health insurance — obtain access to comprehensive primary and preventive health care services,” Obama told a news conference.

“That helps relieve the burden on emergency rooms across the country, which have become primary care clinics for too many who lack coverage — often at taxpayer expense.”

The Health and Human Services Department said the money would create 5,500 new jobs and help provide health care to an estimated 750,000 low-income Americans.

Gary Pickens, chief research officer for the Healthcare business of Thomson Reuters, a division of Thomson Reuters Corp, agreed the centers relieve overburdened hospitals.

“Hospitals currently have overcrowded emergency departments and would probably prefer to see care given in more appropriate settings for conditions that don’t require hospitalization,” Pickens said in a telephone interview.

This addresses one of the most pressing problems facing our health care system. Emergency rooms are overcrowded, as too many Americans without health insurance rely on them for care. Community health centers can help handle many of these cases, and they provide better care as they are organized to handle primary health services as opposed to emergencies.

More money is on the way.

“Over the next two years, a total of $2 billion in Recovery Act funding will be invested in Community Health Centers to support renovations and repairs, investments in health information technology, and critically needed health care services,” HHS said in a statement.

These are the types of “investments” that contribute to the common good. It attacks the inefficiencies in the current system while improving the quality of care.

Working on the stimulus

The Washington Post reports that the Obama team is back off one of its tax cut proposals, as many Democrats have expressed concern tha the $3,000 jobs tax credit would be difficult to administer and could easily be abused.

I’m not sure this is the case, but it’s refreshing to see flexibility from the Obama team. Even more interesting was this observation in the article:

Even before assuming office, Obama is taking an unusually direct role in legislative efforts to move both bills forward, personally phoning lawmakers and dispatching senior aides to Capitol Hill on a near-daily basis. Today the president-elect will speak to Senate Democrats at their weekly luncheon, and he will soon appear before House Democrats, although a date has not been set, a senior Obama aide said.

Obama expects to meet with Republicans in both chambers, the aide added, although not until after he is inaugurated next Tuesday.

Obama is showing that he’s wlling to mix it up and get his hands dirty. He cares about the details, and he wants to be involved in the details. He expects government to perform well, and he’s setting the standard.

Obviously, this presents a stark contrast to George W. Bush. As I’ve said many times, expect a much different tone and work ethic over the next eight years.

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