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Van Hollen among senators demanding increased FCC funding for telehealth

August 21st, 2020 by WCBC Radio

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai'i) and a group of 15 Senators in urging Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Ajit Pai to increase funding for and improve the operations of the Rural Health Care (RHC) program, which helps expand access to telehealth services to underserved communities.

Demand for telehealth services as an alternative to in-person care has dramatically increased due to the pandemic — resulting in increased costs and stretched capacity for health providers. However, the FCC has denied the RHC program sufficient funds to operate and delayed making funding decisions that would send critical aid to communities across the country.

“Cash-strapped health care providers are looking to the RHC Program for help to defray these costs, but you have so far not taken steps that would allow health care providers to receive additional support through the program,” the senators wrote to Chairman Pai. “We urge you to address these issues as soon as possible.”

Telehealth allows health care providers to treat patients safely without putting themselves or their patients at risk of contracting COVID-19, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend telehealth over in-person visits wherever possible. However, many providers lack the resources to handle this increase in demand for telehealth services. These providers depend on the RHC program, the only federal initiative that supports broadband connectivity for health care providers.

The letter to Chairman Pai was also signed by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Tom Carper (D-Del.).

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