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Obama directs $600 million to health centers

Of the funds the U.S. president is directing to help create jobs and overhaul the country's health system, $88 million is earmarked for helping digitize medical records.

President Obama announced Wednesday that he is directing nearly $600 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act awards to repair, rebuild, or altogether replace federally designated community health centers across the country, $88 million of which has been earmarked to help digitize medical records.

"These investments won't just increase efficiency and lower costs," Obama told community health leaders with members of Congress at his side. "They'll improve the quality of care as well, preventing countless medical errors and allowing providers to spend less time with paperwork and more time with patients."

The $508.5 million has already been awarded to 85 community health centers in what has been described as a "competitive process." These centers serve more than 17 million patients, almost half of whom reportedly have no health insurance.

As part of a larger effort to create jobs and overhaul the country's health system, this money comes from the $787 billion federal economic stimulus package approved earlier this year. About half of the $2 billion set aside to help improve health care for low-income and uninsured Americans has been spent already.

"This is what the Recovery Act is all about: providing immediate assistance for hard-hit families, improving our nation's infrastructure and creating new opportunities for stable, well-paid work," Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement.

The awards are expected to not only create new jobs in construction and health care, but also help provide care for more than half a million patients in underserved communities.