The Senate on Monday passed a bill by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., to reauthorize a federal program for community health centers to help low-income people.

"These centers provide affordable and quality care to at-risk Americans who otherwise might have to do without," Hatch said.

"About 96 percent of patients at Utah health centers have incomes 200 percent below the federal poverty level. In rural areas, health centers are often the only health care provider. They act as a safety net."

Hatch said that since 2001, increased funding has enabled community health centers to treat 4 million new patients in more than 750 communities across the nation. His bill reauthorizes funding for the program for five more years.