Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Senators Call For $2 Billion In New Federal Funding To Help Health Care Providers Expand Telehealth Services During Pandemic

Dana Ritchie 

On May 11, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) led a bipartisan group of senators to urge the leadership of both the Senate and House of Representatives to include $2 billion in the next coronavirus relief package to help health care providers expand telehealth services by improving their access to broadband. “The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically increased the need to expand telehealth,” the senators wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif). “It is imperative that Congress act to ensure our front-line responders have the tools they need to combat this deadly virus.”

The Schatz press statement noted that, “Telehealth allows health care providers to treat patients safely without putting themselves or their patients at risk of contracting COVID-19 and has been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, many providers – especially in rural and hard-to-reach communities – lack the resources to handle this increase in demand for telehealth services. The senators are calling for $2 billion in additional funding to the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program, the only federal program that supports broadband deployment at urban and rural health care provider locations. These new funds would expand the RHC Program to support non-rural and mobile health care providers, eliminate administrative red tape slowing down the process of obtaining broadband connectivity, and provide more resources to help providers increase their broadband capacity.”

As noted in previous AHCA communication, AHCA supported H.R. 6474, the Healthcare Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act, which is 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. The House Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) and Representative Don Young (R-AK) introduced this legislation.

Further information on this issue, including the Senate letter noted above, can be found here.

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