Promote Telemedicine During the COVID-19 Pandemic


Sign the letter below asking Congress to appropriate $2 billion for the FCC’s Rural Health Care program to improve broadband for rural and urban healthcare providers.


Earlier this year, the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition developed a proposal for Congress to ensure that rural healthcare providers have the broadband capacity they need to provide telemedicine services to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. Congressional leaders from both parties responded by introducing the “Healthcare Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act.” These companions bills were introduced in the U.S. House (H.R. 6474) by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), and in the U.S. Senate (S.3838) by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).  The legislation would provide $2 billion in funding and would expedite the provision of broadband for telemedicine in rural and urban markets.  We are now asking organizations across the United States to sign the letter below asking Congress to include this legislation in the next coronavirus relief legislation.

 Read & Sign the Letter

NOTE: We are asking people to sign this letter on behalf of their organizations (not as individuals). Please make sure that you have the authority to sign on behalf of your organization before filling out the fields below.


The Problem: Rural healthcare is facing a significant crisis. Rural hospitals have been closing, and there is a severe shortage of doctors in rural markets.[i]  The COVID-19 virus makes the delivery of healthcare that much more difficult.  As the virus expands into rural markets, it puts even greater stress on healthcare providers.[ii]  The number of telemedicine visits has skyrocketed from thousands per year to millions per month.[iii] Unfortunately, many rural and urban telehealth providers do not have sufficient broadband to send medical images, exchange medical records, or otherwise provide telemedicine services.

The Research:  The SHLB Coalition conducted a cost analysis, estimating that $2 billion in one-time funding would be needed to ensure that all nonprofit rural and urban healthcare providers could upgrade their broadband capability. 

The Solution:  The legislation drafted by Congress would appropriate an additional $2 billion for the FCC’s RHC program to supplement the $605 million that the FCC has already allocated to the program.  In addition, the legislation streamlines the flow of funding for broadband connections as follows:

  1. It increases the subsidies for consortia projects from 65% to 85%.
  2. It delays implementation of the FCC’s urban-rural database for an additional year because of the harm the database could cause to rural healthcare providers.
  3. It allows healthcare providers to increase their bandwidth from their existing broadband provider immediately to deal with the sudden demand for funding.
  4. It compensates healthcare providers for broadband expenses incurred from the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.

The Ask: If you agree with the need for this legislation, please read the letter below and fill out the form to add your organization’s name to the list of supporters by COB Friday, June 12.  We will transmit this letter and the list of supporters to Congress imminently thereafter.


Proposed Letter to Congress

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader McCarthy, and Minority Leader Schumer,

The organizations below strongly support the “Healthcare Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act” to improve the delivery of telemedicine as set forth in H.R. 6474, introduced by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK), and S.3838, introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).  These companion bills would provide critically important funding to connect rural and urban healthcare providers to high-speed broadband for telemedicine.

Rural healthcare is facing a significant crisis. Rural hospitals have been closing, and there is a severe shortage of doctors in rural markets.[i]  The COVID-19 virus makes the delivery of healthcare that much more difficult.  As the virus expands into rural markets, it puts even greater stress on healthcare providers.[ii]  The number of telemedicine visits has skyrocketed from thousands per year to millions per month.[iii] Unfortunately, many rural and urban telehealth providers do not have sufficient broadband to send medical images, exchange medical records, or otherwise provide telemedicine services.

These bills have already been endorsed by the American Hospital Association (AHA), the American Health Care Association (AHCA), the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), and the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition.  We are writing to add our organizations’ names in support of this important legislation.  We ask that you include this bill in the next COVID-19 relief legislation this summer so that all Americans have access to high-quality medical care through telemedicine.  

Sincerely,

 

 





 

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