Spanberger, Johnson lead bipartisan push for telehealth funding in COVID-19 relief

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Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD-AL) are leading a bipartisan effort calling on Congress to include funding for the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program in the upcoming COVID-19 relief package.

In April, the FCC established the COVID-19 Telehealth program to support healthcare providers’ provision of telehealth services needed to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

However, in June, the FCC announced that it would stop accepting applications for awards. And last month, the FCC announced that all approved funding had been distributed, meaning many eligible providers and telehealth projects are no longer able to apply for or receive federal support.

In a letter sent to congressional leadership in both parties, the bipartisan group emphasized the skyrocketing demand in their districts for reliable telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, they stressed how the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program has helped local providers meet the need for safe and reliable healthcare access in response to the crisis — and how continued funding would provide them with the resources they require to maintain or establish new telehealth projects.

“Congress rightly anticipated the increased demand when it included a $200 million appropriation in the CARES Act for the FCC to support health care providers’ provision of telehealth services needed to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus,” said Spanberger, Johnson, and their colleagues. “Unfortunately, within weeks of FCC starting the program, it was apparent this initial appropriation would be insufficient to meet providers’ needs. More than 5,200 providers applied to participate in the program, and the FCC could only fund 500 of these applications before exhausting the initial appropriation.”

The letter continues: “These efforts by health providers in our districts, and thousands more like them, would improve access to care for communities across the country and protect providers and patients from this very infectious disease. For those reasons, we urge you to include an extension of the FCC COVID-19 Telehealth Program.”

Last month, Spanberger and Johnson introduced a bipartisan bill to provide much-needed funding to the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Their COVID-19 Telehealth Program Extension Act would provide an additional $200 million in funding for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program.

Click here to read the letter.


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