Tester Caps National Health Center Week With Call for Certainty for Community Health Centers

Tester: Congress cannot play politics with families’ health care

To mark the conclusion of National Health Center Week, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today called on Senate leadership to reauthorize critical funding for the 65 community health centers that serve more than 100,000 Montanans annually before the end of the fiscal year.

Tester wrote a letter calling for the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF) to be reauthorized before it expires next month, noting that Community Health Centers (CHCs) are a critical part of Montana’s health care system – especially in rural areas.

“In Montana, community health centers play a central role in serving patients across the state, particularly for families in rural and frontier communities,” Tester wrote. “A majority of Montana counties are designated as primary care shortage areas, so the 65 community health center delivery sites across my home state are vital to maintaining the wellbeing of our communities.”

A leading advocate for CHCs, Tester led the charge to renew the CHCF after Congress let it expire two years ago, causing uncertainty for health centers and patients. Tester eventually brokered a deal to secure two years of funding for CHCs in a bipartisan budget deal, and was the only member of Montana’s delegation to vote for the funding, which is set to lapse again on September 30 unless Congress acts.

Tester’s letter continued: “This year, Congress cannot play politics with families’ health care by allowing funding for these critical care delivery sites to face this insecurity once again… I write to urge immediate action on reauthorization of the Community Health Center Fund before its expiration on September 30, 2019. The care delivered to millions of patients across the country cannot be ensnared into Washington’s partisan politics.”

Montana is home to more than 60 community health center delivery sites that serve over 100,000 patients a year, and Tester has recently secured some big wins on their behalf, including more than $1 million for the Glacier Community Health Center in Cut Bank and $4.4 million for RiverStone Health in Billings. In March, Tester received the ‘Distinguished Community Health Champion Award’ for the second year in a row because of his work defending community health centers across the country.

“Senator Tester has been a CHC hero and has been supporting care for all Montanans every day,” said Montana Primary Care Association CEO Cindy Stergar. “He cares about people in Montana and is a straight shooter when it comes to financially supporting care that works in our state, and we appreciate his continued support.”

“With nearly 1 of every 10 Montanans receiving care at a community health center, it is vital that Congress renew the Community Health Center Fund,” said John Felton, President & CEO of RiverStone Health and chair-elect of the Montana Primary Care Association. “Not only is the care provided at community health centers high quality and cost effective, it is integrated whole-person care that keeps people healthy and productive. On behalf of Montana’s community health centers, I commend Senator Tester for his leadership and commitment to ensure access to healthcare for all Montanans.”

Tester’s letter is available HERE.