Eshoo-Young COVID-19 Telehealth Expansion Legislation Introduced

 

  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

WASHINGTON — 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.

“The coronavirus has only increased the need for high-quality and reliable internet connectivity as healthcare is increasingly delivered through telehealth and healthcare professionals depend on broadband for every aspect of their operations,” said Rep. Eshoo. “The Healthcare Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act ensures healthcare providers around the country can afford internet connectivity as they respond to the worst pandemic of our lifetimes.”

“Access to dependable, patient-centered healthcare is essential to the well-being of Alaskans, and is especially vital in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Rep. Young. “As technology has advanced, so too has the delivery of healthcare. Telehealth is a proven healthcare delivery method, but requires access to reliable broadband connectivity. The Healthcare Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act takes crucially needed steps to ensure that healthcare providers in Alaska and across the country have the internet access they need to keep our communities safe.”

Background

Today, 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.

coalition of 48 healthcare organizations 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.

 

48 Healthcare Organizations Call for Adequate Telemedicine Funding in Next COVID-19 Relief Package

The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition and 47 other health organizations endorsed H.R. 6474, the “ Healthcare Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act” and asked Congress to include this legislation in the next coronavirus relief package. Representatives Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Don Young, R-Alaska, introduced the bill to allow healthcare providers across the country to upgrade their broadband capacity and expand telemedicine services to the public.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact on Americans across the country, and healthcare organizations are under enormous pressure to increase their telemedicine services to meet the needs of patients and medical professionals,” said John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the SHLB Coalition. “The SHLB Coalition estimates that the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Health Care (RHC) program needs an additional $2 billion in funding to ensure that healthcare institutions can obtain the broadband capacity they need to handle the heightened telehealth demand. "We applaud Representative Eshoo and Representative Young for introducing this vital legislation to ensure that healthcare services reach everyone. No healthcare provider should have to cut back on its telemedicine offerings because it doesn’t have enough funding for its underlying broadband connection. Congress can guarantee that will not happen by including H.R 6474 in the next COVID-19 relief package.”

The SHLB Coalition also documented its analysis of the $2 billion demand in a separate letter supporting the “Healthcare Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act.” The letter estimates the costs of ensuring that healthcare providers in urban and rural areas have the broadband capacity they need to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

USTelecom Voices Support for Eshoo/Young Bill

The following statement of support for the Esjoo Young bill was made by Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO, USTelecom, a national trade association representing technology providers, innovators, suppliers, and manufacturers committed to connecting the world through the power of broadband. "This is a smart and targeted investment surge by Reps. Eshoo and Young and exactly what we should be doing during this public health emergency – finding ways to bring 21st century connectivity and more digital technology to all of our country’s hospital systems and healthcare providers – no matter their zip code. We know broadband powered telehealth can expand access and coverage options that can help frontline healthcare providers diagnose and treat more patients in this crisis and beyond.”

 

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