Obama to give $600 million to health centers

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President Barack Obama said Wednesday he will allocate nearly $600 million from the $787 billion economic stimulus plan to help create jobs at 85 community health centers.

Obama is under heavy pressure to generate job growth in the United States, with the November unemployment rate at 10 percent.

Republicans say the economic stimulus package passed in February by the Democratic-controlled Congress has had little impact, but Democrats counter that the stimulus pulled the country back from the brink of an even deeper recession.

The White House said nearly $600 million would awarded to help pay for major construction and renovation projects at 85 community health centers across the country and assist networks at the centers to move to electronic records.

The funds are expected not only to create new jobs in construction and healthcare, but also to help provide care for more than 500,000 additional patients in underserved communities, the White House said.

Obama pressed his case for bipartisan support for healthcare reform, saying the U.S. healthcare system takes a toll not just in high costs and lost workdays, but on Americans who suffer because they are unable to afford care.

No matter what party we belong to, or where on the political spectrum we fall, none of us thinks this is acceptable. None of us would defend this system. That's why we've taken up the cause of health insurance reform this year, Obama said.

Obama also announced a new demonstration initiative to support the delivery of advanced primary care to elderly and disabled Medicare patients through community health centers.

Taken together, these three initiatives -- funding for construction, technology and a medical home demonstration -- they won't just save money over the long term and create more jobs, Obama said in remarks just before signing the memo authorizing the demonstration project.

They're also going to give more people the peace of mind of knowing that healthcare will be there for them and their families when they need it and ultimately that's what health insurance reform is really about, he said. That's what the members of Congress here today will be voting on in the coming weeks.

To qualify for funding, a facility must be a federally qualified community health center.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Patricia Zengerle, editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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