Tester Backs Bills to Increase Access to Mental and Behavioral Health, Prevent Drug Misuse, and Ensure Coverage During Cancer Treatment for Montanans

Senator: “Montanans can’t afford to get kicked in the gut on health care any longer”

As part of his continuing effort to secure more health care resources for Montanans during the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senator Jon Tester recently announced his support of four bills aimed at increasing access to mental and behavioral health care; addiction and cancer treatment and prevention; and family planning resources.

The four bills aim to provide Montanans with critical access to health care resources that are especially pertinent during the current national public health crisis. The Tester-backed Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation (NOPAIN) Act, Medicare Mental Health Access Act, Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act, and Protect Access to Birth Control Act work to curb the overprescription of opioids, fulfill the unmet mental and behavioral health needs of Montanans, reduce wait times for breast cancer patients seeking Medicare and Social Security Disability benefits, and ensure that Montanans retain access to birth control.

“Thousands of Montanans are currently struggling to access the health care resources they need to keep themselves and their families safe during this worldwide public health crisis,” said Tester. “Montanans can’t afford to get kicked in the gut on health care any longer, and it’s high time that Congress stops walking behind the horse, takes up the reins, and works together to pass these commonsense bills that will help folks access mental and behavioral health care, curb the nationwide opioid epidemic, assist folks struggling to pay for cancer treatments, and ensure that everyone can access tools for family planning.”

The four Tester-supported bills will help provide Montanans with critical health care resources throughout the public health crisis and beyond. These bills are especially pertinent because, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many states and localities have seen upwards of 20-50 percent increases in opioid overdoses, upticks in need for mental and behavioral health care, and significant financial strain preventing individuals from receiving public health resources.

The four Tester-backed bills are as follows:

  • Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation (NOPAIN) Act (S. 3067) – This bill incentivizes the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) providers to prescribe non-opioid drugs and devices in outpatient surgery settings in the hopes of preventing opioid addiction. A recent White House Drug Policy Office analysis found an 11.4 percent year-over-year increase in opioid overdose fatalities for the first four months of 2020 in the midst of the global pandemic.
  • Medicare Mental Health Access Act (S. 2772) – This proposal removes the Medicare physician supervision requirements for mental health services provided by psychologists. This will help meet the unmet mental and behavioral health needs across Montana.
  • Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act (S. 1374) – This bill waives the 24-month waiting period for Medicare eligibility and the 5-month waiting period for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) eligibility for individuals with metastatic breast cancer
  • Protect Access to Birth Control Act (S. 4246) – In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this month on the Administration’s rules that virtually any employer or school could assert a religious or moral objection to claim an exemption from coverage for contraception, this bill would halt implementation of the Administration’s rules around employer-sponsored coverage that would limit access for thousands of Montanans.

Tester has fought relentlessly to provide critical support for Montanans trying to access health care resources throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week, he demanded the Trump Administration reverse a decision that would undermine Montana’s COVID-19 hospital data collection and reporting. Last week, he secured nearly $2 million for the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Laboratory to help with testing and immunization support, and he recently he introduced legislation to bolster Montana’s Medicaid program during the crisis. He also recently introduced a resolution condemning the Trump Administration’s reckless effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which protects Montanans with preexisting conditions and that rural hospitals and clinics rely on to survive.

Visit tester.senate.gov/coronavirusresources for a list of resources for Montanans during the COVID-19 outbreak