Tester Stands with RiverStone Health CEO on US Capitol Steps, Demands Funding for Community Health Centers

Senator and National Community Health Center Leaders Call for Action

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester today stood with RiverStone Health CEO John Felton, of Billings, to demand that Congress renew funding for Community Health Centers.

From the steps of the U.S. Capitol, Tester, Felton, and the National Association of Community Health Centers called for congressional leaders to include long-term funding for Community Health Centers in a budget bill this week. Tester emphasized that many rural Montana health care providers could be forced to shut down if Community Health Center funding is not included in this week’s budget bill.

“Community Health Centers provide health care that is effective and affordable,” Tester said. “It has been 130 days since Congress failed to fund Community Health Centers and put them in a world of hurt. Without long-term funding, these health care facilities could close down and lay off staff. It is time for Congress to quit kicking the can down the road and provide Community Health Centers with long-term certainty.”

Tester is Montana’s only cosponsor of the bipartisan Community Health Investment, Modernization, and Excellence Act, which will renew funding for Community Health Center Fund for five years and he was the only member of Montana’s congressional delegation to oppose a short-term budget last month because it did not include funding for Community Health Centers.

Funding for Community Health Centers expired 130 days ago, and since, Congress has passed four short-term budgets that have failed to renew long term funding for these critical health care facilities. Tester led the charge to renew Community Health Center funding in 2015.

A report released by the Kaiser Family Foundation last week identified that 36 percent of Community Health Centers across the country are at risk of closure, 20 percent have instituted hiring freezes, and four percent have laid off staff.

Montana is home to 17 community health centers, which serve more than 100,000 people per year.

Community Health Centers are cost-effective primary care options for America’s most underserved communities. Without a long-term budget reauthorizing the Community Health Center Fund, clinics across the country will see a 70 percent drop in federal grant funding and could start running out of money as early as this month.

Tester used 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.

Tester also successfully opposed dozens of attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which established the Community Health Center Fund to provide additional resources to Montana’s Community Health Centers.

In addition to fighting for renewed Community Health Center funding, Tester secured grants for the following Community Health Centers since 2015:

  • 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 

Tester hosted a series of public health care listening sessions last year. Many of these listening sessions were hosted by Montana Community Health Care Centers.