Wednesday, April 15, 2020

AHCA Supports Bipartisan Bill to Expand Telehealth During COVID-19

Dana Ritchie 

On Friday, April 10, House Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) and Representative Don Young (R-AK) introduced H.R. 6474, the Healthcare Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act, a bipartisan bill to provide $2 billion to expand telehealth and high-quality internet connectivity at public and nonprofit healthcare facilities, including mobile clinics and temporary health facilities deployed to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a press statement from the offices of Reps. Eshoo and Young, it stated that healthcare providers pay an average of over $40,000 per year for broadband connectivity. The FCC’s Healthcare Connect Fund Program (HCFP) subsidizes 65 percent of the cost of broadband for eligible public and nonprofit rural healthcare facilities. H.R. 6474 expands the program to include rural, urban, and suburban healthcare facilities, including mobile and temporary facilities established to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and increases the subsidy rate to 85 percent. The bill also streamlines administrative requirements to ensure healthcare providers receive funding as quickly as possible.

On March 21st Rep. Eshoo sent a letter urging the FCC to expand its Rural Health Care Program, which HCFP is part of, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. A coalition of 48 healthcare organizations, including the American Health Care Association (AHCA), endorsed H.R. 6474. In addition to healthcare organizations, H.R. 6474 is broadly supported public interest groups; associations of local governments; and telecommunications companies and associations.

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