Daines Secures Important Healthcare Resources for Montanans

U.S. SENATE — U.S. Senator Steve Daines today secured important healthcare resources for Montanans to improve the quality and reliability of services.

“Montanans deserve reliable access to quality healthcare services close to home,” Daines stated. “Through my efforts, our health care providers will be able to better serve rural communities across our state and country.”

The Senate Committee on Appropriations today passed the bipartisan FY2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Bill.

Daines secured the following resources for Montana: 

Air Ambulance: Secured language to require the Government Accountability Office to author a report about the costs and coverage related to air ambulance services. This will help get to the root of the problem with high costs for patients from utilizing air ambulance services which are not covered by their health insurance policy. 

Rural Health CareFunded at $152.6 million. The obstacles faced by patients and providers in rural communities are unique and often significantly different than those in urban areas.  Therefore, the bill focuses resources toward efforts and programs to help rural communities, such as telehealth.

  • Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Grant: Secured continuing funding for Critical Access Hospitals. There are 47 critical access hospitals in Montana that provide frontline care to Montanans.

Community Health Centers: Secured continuing funding for community health centers to support access to health care in local communities so that Montanans can receive care close to home.

  • This past year Daines announced the following Community Health Centers received grants:
    • Cascade City – County Health Department received $1,494,954.00
    • Glacier Community Health Center, Inc. received $1,623,630.00 
    • Lincoln County Community Health Center received $1,508,655.00
    • Montana Migrant Council, Inc. received $1,884,532.00
    • County of Lewis and Clark received $1,777,285.00
    •  Butte Community Health Center received $1,819,143.00 
    • RiverStone Health Center in Yellowstone County received $3,925,417.00

Mental Health: The bill provides $541.5 million for the Mental Health Block Grant and continues the set-aside for serious mental illness activities at 10 percent.  The Block Grants represent the primary sources of mental health funding for state programs. The bill also provides $50 million within the funding for Community Health Centers to provide mental health services at health centers across the country. 

Special Olympics: Secured more than $2 million in additional funding, Special Olympics Project UNIFY and related education and sports based programs help improve opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities in communities across the United States. These programs, in particular, have been critical to help start impactful special education programs in schools on Montana reservations.

Veterans Employment Training ProgramsFunded at $274.5 million. Veterans Employment and Training funding provides for intensive employment services to veterans and eligible spouses, transitioning service members, wounded warriors, and disabled veterans.  An additional $2.4 million for the homeless veterans program will help increase program enrollment and provide additional specialized services, such as job training, social services, guidance for substance abuse treatment, transportation, and housing referrals.

Fighting Opioid Abuse$261 million for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and Health Resources and Services Administration programs targeted to combat opioid abuse.  According to CDC, sales from prescription opioids nearly quadrupled between 1999 and 2014.  There has been a corresponding increase in deaths from prescription opioids, claiming more than 165,000 lives.

  • With Daines’ support, the Senate overwhelmingly passed S. 524, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). This legislation authorizes grants for implementing community-wide strategies in areas where opioid and methamphetamine abuse is higher than the national average, where there is a recent spike in such abuse, or there is a significant increase in opioid and methamphetamine abuse related deaths. 
  • On March 11, 2016, Daines announced $379,167 in funding for Bighorn Valley Health Center and $379,167 in funding for Billhook Community Health Center to help tackle this crisis. 

ObamacareThe bill does not provide new funding for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare.  In addition, several oversight provisions are included in the agreement.

  • Risk Corridor – The bill continues to include a provision requiring the Administration to operate the Risk Corridor program in a budget neutral manner by prohibiting any funds from the Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill to be used as payments for the Risk Corridor program.  Last year, insurers paid $362 million into the Risk Corridor program while submitting $2.87 billion in claims for Risk Corridor payments.  Because of this provision in the FY2016 bill, the Subcommittee was able to save over $2.5 billion from potentially being transferred out of priority discretionary HHS programs in the Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill to bail out the Risk Corridor program established by the ACA.
  • ACA Congressional Notification – The agreement directs the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to notify the appropriate Congressional committees two business days before any ACA-related data or grant opportunities are released to the public.
  • Health Exchange Transparency – Bill language is included requiring the Administration to publish ACA-related spending by category since its inception.
  • ACA Personnel – Bill language is included requiring the Administration to publish information on the number of employees, contractors, and activities involved in implementing, administering, or enforcing provisions of the ACA. 

National Institutes of Health: Secured nearly $2 billion additional dollars to increase medical research funding across the board and have potential impacts on disease impacting families in Montana, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, ALS, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, mental health disorders, and cancer.

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease: Secured continuing funding to help to track the disease and help in focusing research into potential treatments and cures.
  • Muscular Dystrophy Program: Secured continuing funding to help further research into the disease and move toward potential treatments and cures.

Impact Aid: Secured $10 million in increased funding. $45 million in Impact Aid funding was disbursed to over 70 Montana schools and districts in Fiscal Year 2015. Impact Aid was created because Congress recognized the federal government needed to accept responsibility – in areas impacted by a federal presence – by partnering with local taxpayers to help meet the local responsibility of financing public education. These school districts are often located in rural areas with few taxpayers and where administrators double as bus drivers, teachers, and coaches. These dollars provide a foundational education program for all students; many schools would close their doors without the support of Impact Aid.