Amid COVID Surge, Tester Sponsors Legislation to Extend Critical Health Care Relief Programs
Senator: “Montana’s health care providers are on the frontline against this deadly virus, and it’s our job to ensure that they have the necessary resources to protect our state”
As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc in Montana, U.S. Senator Jon Tester sponsored the Provider Relief Fund Deadline Extension Act to extend the deadline for eligible health care providers to use specific funds received from the COVID-19 Provider Relief Fund, which Tester fought to create as a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“Montana’s health care providers are on the frontline against this deadly virus, and it’s our job to ensure that they have the necessary resources to protect our state,” said Tester. “We’re seeing hospitals implementing crisis standards of care as the delta variant tears through Montana, and this legislation prevents critical health programs from expiring, giving the brave women and men of our health care community the tools they need to continue to save lives.
The Provider Relief Fund enables providers and facilities to better respond to COVID-19 through additional funding for provider payments, facility improvements, personal protective equipment, and other COVID-19 mitigation efforts. The deadline to use COVID-19 Provider Relief funding was June 30, 2021, but the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued their final guidance for the usage of funds after the deadline had passed, leaving several facilities with the inability to access and use funding. Tester’s legislation, which is supported by the Montana Hospital Association, will extend the deadline for usage of Provider Relief Funds until December 31, 2021.
Montana led the nation in positive COVID-19 case increases per capita from September 6th-20th, and several hospitals across the state are currently implementing, or preparing to implement, crisis standards of care, meaning that hospitals may not have the necessary resources to treat every patient.
Tester has fought to support Montana’s health care providers throughout the pandemic. He secured $2.5 million in funding for the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services to help vaccinate eligible children through last December's government funding and COVID stimulus bill, and more than $1 million in CARES Act funding to support health care workings in the Billings and Missoula areas. Additionally, he recently secured $8.5 billion from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) for providers who serve rural Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or Medicare patients. He also secured funding for Montana telehealth programs in the CARES Act, and successfully fought for those provisions expanding access to telehealth to be made permanent.