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. If passed, the bipartisan bill would provide $2 billion to expand telehealth and high-speed 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 reliable internet connectivity as healthcare is increasingly delivered through telehealth and healthcare professionals depend on broadband for every aspect of their operations” said Eshoo. The bill “ensures healthcare providers around the country can afford internet connectivity as they respond to the worst pandemic of our lifetimes,” she explained.
Rural providers continue to have access to the program and their eligibility will not change under the bipartisan legislation. USTelecom President/CEO Jonathan Spalter called the measure “a smart and targeted investment surge” 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.”
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.
A coalition of 48 healthcare organizations endorsed H.R. 6474. In addition to healthcare organizations, the measure is supported by telecommunications companies and associations, associations of local governments and public interest groups. In addition to USTelecom and The Broadband Association, other industry supporters include: ACA Connects—America’s Communications Association, NCTA — The Internet & Television Association and The Fiber Broadband Association.
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