Tester Passes Bipartisan Bill to Invest in Schools, Expand Health Care Access, and Create Jobs
Senator Leads Bipartisan Effort to Pass 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services & Education Appropriations Bill
(U.S. Senate)-U.S. Senator Jon Tester today helped pass an important bipartisan bill that will invest in schools, expand access to health care, and create good jobs in Montana.
“When Republicans and Democrats work together, good bills get signed into law,” Tester said. “This bill gives our students and teachers the resources they need to succeed in the classroom, invests in our rural hospitals and clinics so they can keep serving their community, and boosts resources for job training.”
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 include:
EDUCATION & LABOR
• $1.7 billion for Job Corps, a major part of Tester’s #EmployMT initiative.
• $5.2 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants.
• $10.1 billion for Head Start.
• $1.4 billion for Impact Aid.
• $1.2 billion for 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
• $1 billion for TRIO.
• $12.4 billion in IDEA funding to help educate students with disabilities.
• $3.6 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
• $100 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award.
Tester included language in the bill to help bring more teachers to rural America and Indian Country by providing professional development opportunities to educators. This provision-which comes from 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.
• $1.6 billion for Community Health Centers.
• $249.4 million for Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Programs.
• $25.5 million for rural telehealth initiatives.
• $286.4 million for Title X Family Planning.
• $748 million for Mental Health Block Grants.
• $1.8 billion for Substance Abuse Block Grants.
Tester secured two provisions in the bipartisan bill to lower prescription drugs costs and bring more doctors to rural communities.
The bill also includes Tester’s language to bring more doctors to rural hospitals and health clinics. 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. Tester’s provision urges Medicare to reconsider these regulations and support residency programs in rural hospitals.
Tester also secured a provision in the bill to lower prescription drug costs. This will rein in pharmaceutical middlemen by urging Medicare to limit their ability to retroactively charge pharmacies for their service. Under the current system, pharmacists that serve Medicare Part D patients work with a Pharmacy Benefits Manager, the middleman, to collect payment from the patient’s insurance company. The middleman can 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.
During debate on the legislation, Tester voted against an amendment that would prohibit federal funds from being used by patients at Planned Parenthood. That amendment failed on a vote, 45-48.
The 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill passed the Senate 85-7.