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Remarks by Secretary Xavier Becerra at the 2022 National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) Policy & Issues Forum

As Prepared for Delivery

Henry (Taylor) thank you for that kind introduction. I want to also thank the National Association of Community Health Centers for inviting me to take part in today’s forum alongside so many great partners, including:

  • Former RNC Chairman and Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele
  • Health Resources and Services Administration Administrator Carole Johnson
  • Associate Administrator in the Bureau of Primary Health Care James Macrae
  • Associate Administrator for Health Workforce and Director of the National Health Service CorpsDr. Luis Padilla

I also want to thank President Biden for his remarks on the importance of health centers and for his leadership and partnership on this issue.

From Seattle to Atlanta and everywhere in between, I’ve seen firsthand the critical role that our health centers play in serving communities.

I’ve met with doctors, nurses, and staff, and I’ve listened to their stories. I’ve heard about the moments of both hardship and hope. And I’ve seen their resolve and determination to save lives in the face of some of the biggest challenges our nation has ever faced.

Each time I visit a health center, I feel the same: that anyone, rich or poor, young or old, would enjoy walking through the doors of this place. Because you feel like you are being treated with dignity and respect, and by professionals that care.

And that’s really important, especially as we build back better from this pandemic and work to reach people where they are on issues like vaccinations and health care access.

The more than 1,400 health centers in our country serve as a national source of primary care for our most vulnerable communities. And they provide vital medical, dental, and behavioral health care to nearly 29 million patients.

This includes 1 in 3 individuals living in poverty, 1 in 6 who are uninsured, and 1 in 5 rural residents.

Throughout this pandemic, health centers have provided testing and care for those affected by the virus. And as of last month, they have delivered more than 19.2 million vaccine doses.

And despite caring for a sicker, underserved, and more diverse patient population, health centers continue to meet and exceed national quality care benchmarks time and again –across rural and urban communities.

America owes a great debt to community health centers and their staff on the frontlines, who have responded to this crisis with compassion and resilience.

As we move forward, health centers will continue to be vital to achieving our goals of beating COVID-19, expanding access to quality and affordable health care, and advancing health equity.

And over the past year, working together, I’m proud to say that we’ve already made great strides towards achieving these goals.

As of today, more than 251 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than 213 million have been fully vaccinated.

This includes 80 percent of Black adults and 77 percent of Latino adults who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 75 percent of white adults. That’s a twenty-point increase for both Black and Latino adults since May 2021.

In addition, more Americans today have access to quality care, thanks to the health centers that have been providing essential care to patients.

In late January, HHS made more than $2 billion in Provider Relief Fund payments to more than 7,600 providers.

With this funding, more than $18 billion has been distributed from the Provider Relief Fund and the American Rescue Plan Rural provider funding since November.

Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program enrollment grew 14 percent, from 71 million to roughly 82 million people, the largest single increase in the program’s history.

And thanks to the American Rescue Plan and our robust outreach efforts, a record-breaking 14.5 million Americans enrolled in an affordable health insurance plan during the Administration’s first Open Enrollment Period.

I look forward to building on our progress together.

As the President said in his remarks, this Administration is committed to being good partners to all of you. And this isn’t just lip service. He’s taking action.

Thanks to his leadership, HHS is more empowered than ever to help you make change and save lives. And the proof of our commitment to health centers is clear.

That’s why we awarded more than $7.3 billion in American Rescue Plan funding to nearly 1,400 community health centers nationwide to mitigate COVID-19 and expand health services.

We also recognize the importance of investing in the health care workforce to help sustain community health centers. We provided $1.5 billion in funding to build the largest field strength in history. As a result, more than 22,700 primary care clinicians now serve in the nation’s underserved tribal, rural and urban communities.   Sustained investment in programs like these will be of great support to our health workforce.

And we are not stopping there. Today, I am happy to announce that we awarded nearly $55 million to 29 health centers in order to increase health care access through virtual care.

Health centers reported significant increases in virtual care in 2020, going from fewer than 500,000 visits to more than 28 million.

And more than 99 percent of health centers are now offering virtual visits.

This funding will help health centers leverage the latest technology and innovations—such as telehealth and remote patient monitoring—to expand access to quality primary care for underserved communities.

Our work isn’t finished. And moving forward, we will continue to rely on your partnership. It takes all of us. Because we know health care is not just about mending bones or dispensing pills. It’s about giving people peace of mind, to economic security, to a brighter future. That’s what happens when people can get the care they need. And health centers are providing it every single day.

So thank you again for helping us advance the health and well-being of the families you serve,  and thank you for giving Americans a chance to secure the peace of mind they deserve.