Tester Scores Big Win, Certainty for Montana’s Community Health Centers
After Leading Charge on CHC Funding, Tester Touts Bipartisan Deal that Will Reauthorize & Increase Funding
(U.S. Senate) - U.S. Senator Jon Tester today teamed up with several leaders of Montana's Community Health Centers to announce that a new Congressional bipartisan budget deal will increase funding for Community Health Centers over the next two years.
"Funding for Community Health Centers has been a top priority for me and it became that because of my visits to the community health centers around the state" Tester told his colleagues in an afternoon speech on the Senate Floor. "From Bullhook in Havre to RiverStone in Billings to Southwest Montana Community Health Center in Butte to Partnership Health Center in Missoula, and the list goes on and on. These health care facilities provide incredibly affordable and efficient health care to people across Montana. So, I am incredibly pleased to work with the leadership in this body and get a deal for Community Health Centers across this country."
As a leading advocate for Community Health Centers in the Senate, Tester is credited with helping secure the funding increase.
"The deal also boosts several health care programs that we care a lot about in this country," said Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer when he announced the agreement earlier today. "An increase in funding for Community Health Centers which serve 26.5 million Americans is included. My friends, Senators Murray and Tester and many others have been champions for these Community Health Centers. I want to thank them for the hard work they put to get this done."
Montana is home to over a dozen Community Health Centers that serve more than 100,000 patients each year. But federal funding for Community Health Centers expired more than 130 days ago and since then, Congress has passed four short-term budgets that have failed to renew long term funding for these critical health care facilities. If funding for Community Health Centers wasn't included in this week's budget bill, Tester warned, clinics across the country would see a 70 percent drop in federal grant funding and could start running out of money as early as this month.
Tester started sounding alarms about this funding cliff last May and has led the charge to reauthorize funding for Community Health Centers ever since. He took to the Senate floor last week demanding Congress take action, and led a press conference yesterday touting his bipartisan Community Health Investment, Modernization, and Excellence Act of 2017, which would continue the Community Health Center Fund for five years. He recently voted against passing a fourth continuing resolution because it didn't reauthorize Community Health Center funding.
Leaders from three Montana Community Health Centers joined Tester today on a press call to announce the news, express their appreciation for the renewed funding, and emphasize the importance of Community Health Centers in Montana.
"These past 130 some days have certainly been challenging for us. The uncertainty in funding is hard for the 70 employees and 5,000 patients that really look to us for their health care," said Cindy Smith, CEO of Bullhook Community Health Center in Havre. "Getting this news is going to be great for all of them. I would really like to thank Senator Tester for being such a champion."
"Thank you for all the hard work that has gone into making sure that we have funding so that we can be providing access to care for some of our most vulnerable Montana citizens," said Jody White, Executive Director of Flathead Community Health Center. "We're happy to have the two-year funding, it's helping us implement some of our long-term plans and make the work that we're doing more robust and sustainable."
"I think the bottom-line is this: Community Health Centers can and should be part of the solution," said John Felton, CEO of RiverStone Health in Billings. "We're talking about access, affordability, comprehensive care and most importantly the workforce to be able to take care of patients. So, we greatly appreciate your leadership on this."
A full timeline of Tester's work on behalf of community health centers:
Tester voted for the Affordable Care Act, which established the Community Health Center Fund.
Tester joins bipartisan Community Health Center Caucus.
Tester supports two-year extension of Community Health Center funding.
Tester uses the Community Health Center Fund to secure more than $7 million in grant funding for Montana Community Health Centers.
- Cut Bank: Glacier Community Health Center - $1,685,166
- Great Falls: Cascade County Community Health Center - $1,558,934
- Hamilton: Sapphire Community Health Center - $704,000
- Miles City: Custer Community Health Center - $919,183
- Shelby: Marias Health Service Inc. - $716,936
- Helena: PureView Health Center - $625,000
- Butte: Southwest Montana Community Health Center - $944,000
- Billings: Yellowstone City/County Health Department and RiverStone Health - $350,000
- Libby: Lincoln County Community Health Center and Northwest Community Health Center - $350,000
- Hardin: Bighorn Valley Center -$350,000
December 15, 2016
Tester hosts health care listening session in Helena with local Community Health Center leaders.
December 21, 2016
Tester hosts health care listening session in Havre with local Community Health Center leaders.
January 7, 2017
Tester hosts health care listening session in Missoula with local Community Health Center leaders.
January 14, 2017
Tester hosts health care listening session in Billings with local Community Health Center leaders.
January 14, 2017
Tester hosts health care listening session in Bozeman with local Community Health Center leaders.
May 24, 2017
Tester calls on Congress to take action and reauthorize Community Health Center funding before it expires in September.
September 7, 2017
Tester uses his position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to secure $1 million in additional funding for Community Health Centers in September, but that bill was not brought up for a final vote by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
September 30, 2017
Failed Congressional leadership allows Community Health Center funding to expire.
October 3, 2017
Tester cosponsors bipartisan CHIME Act to reauthorize funding for Community Health Centers.
January 19, 2018
Tester opposes short-term budget that doesn't contain Community Health Center funding.
January 20, 2018
Tester scolds colleagues on the Senate floor and demands Community Health Center funding is included in a long-term budget bill.
January 21, 2018
Tester again takes to Senate floor saying "Enough is enough" and calls for budget agreement to include Community Health Center funding.
January 22, 2018
Tester again opposes short-term budget that doesn't contain Community Health Center funding.
January 31, 2018
Tester sends letter to Congressional leaders demanding Congress include Community Health Center funding in upcoming budget bill.
February 2, 2018
Tester, on the Senate floor, keeps heat turned up on colleagues to reauthorize Community Health Center funding after a report sheds light on consequences of Congress' failures to fund Community Health Centers.
February 5, 2018
Tester sends another letter to Congressional leaders demanding they take action to fund CHCs.
February 6, 2018
Tester hosts press conference on Capitol Steps with Community Health Center leaders, urging Congress to reauthorize Community Health Center funding.