Tester Passes Committee Bill to Invest in Education, Expand Access to Health Care & Help Working Families
Senator Votes to Advance Annual Labor, Health and Human Services & Education Appropriations Bill
(Butte, Mont.) – As a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, U.S. Senator Jon Tester advanced a bill Thursday that will invest in education, help working families, and increase access to health care across rural America. The bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote.
“Our budget reflects our priorities,” Tester said. “By passing this bill we’re prioritizing the health, education, and well-being of children, seniors, and families across Montana. This legislation will help seniors afford their medications, provide families with health care and childcare, and give students the resources they need to earn their degrees.”
Tester secured critical investments for Montana in the 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill—one of the 12 major bills that fund the federal government each year. The investments Tester secured include:
EDUCATION & LABOR
- $1.72 billion for Job Corps, a major part of Tester’s #EmployMT initiative.
- $5.226 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants.
- $10.113 billion for Head Start.
- $1.439 billion for Impact Aid.
- $1.212 billion for 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
- $1.01 billion for TRIO.
- $12.4 billion in IDEA funding to help educate students with disabilities.
- $3.69 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
- $100 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award.
In addition to these major investments, Tester also secured provisions to help bring more teachers to rural America and Indian Country by providing professional development opportunities to educators. This provision—included in Tester’s REST and NEST Acts—will provide funding to increase the number of teachers in rural and Native schools who are certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
- $1.625 billion for Community Health Centers.
- $249.47 million for Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Programs.
- $25.5 million for rural telehealth initiatives.
- $286.48 million for Title X Family Planning.
- $748 million for Mental Health Block Grants.
- $1.858 billion for Substance Abuse Block Grants.
In addition to these major investments, Tester also secured two provisions to lower prescription drugs costs and bring more medical professionals to rural America.
Current regulations prohibit Medicare from funding resident training rotations at Critical Access Hospitals, which have fewer than 25 inpatient beds and are located in rural areas. This has significantly limited recruitment and training efforts in rural states like Montana, which is home to over 40 Critical Access Hospitals. That’s why Tester secured a provision urging Medicare to reconsider these regressive regulations and support residency programs in rural hospitals. Tester has also introduced the Restoring Rural Residencies Act, which would override these regulations and encourage more medical professionals to practice in rural communities.
Tester also secured a provision that would rein in pharmaceutical middlemen to help lower the cost of prescription medications. Under the current system, pharmacists that serve Medicare Part D patients work with a Pharmacy Benefits Manager (PBM) to collect payment from the patient’s insurance company. The PBM assesses fees on pharmacies weeks or months after the sale, artificially inflating beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket costs and creating significant uncertainty for pharmacies serving Montana’s seniors. That’s why Jon secured a provision urging Medicare to adopt a proposal to limit PBMs’ ability to retroactively charge pharmacies for their service—similar to his bipartisan Improving Transparency and Accuracy in Medicare Part D Drug Spending Act.