Nexstar: Virginia lawmaker looks to include telehealth funding in next COVID-19 relief package

NEXSTAR, BASIL JOHN

In the midst of the pandemic, some lawmakers say telehealth has become a vital service.

“We need to build upon this platform of telehealth which has allowed us, our communities, to deliver quality care to patients across our districts,” Virginia Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger said.

Spanberger is pushing a new bill to provide an additional $200 million to the FCC’s COVID-19 telehealth program.

“Providing greater certainty and support for the healthcare providers that are going to use this path for providing healthcare,” Spanberger said.

Spanberger worries without the added funding, rural communities will no longer have this path available to them.

“I think some of the vital steps forward that we’ve made in developing telehealth healthcare services will pause and stagnate,” Spanberger said.

But other lawmakers say this bill isn’t needed, because the president already addressed the issue.

“When he signed the executive order, took existing money — money that’s already been appropriated and not spent and the agency has been hanging on to this — he’s taken that money and said ‘We’re going to do that anyway,’” Pennsylvania Congressman Fred Keller said.

Keller says Congress should only look into this when the money from the president runs dry.

“I think it’s a little premature to have another bill when the president has an order out here to get things moving and it’s premature to see what the right amount on that would be,” Keller said.

Keller says for now, Congress should focus on expanding broadband access to make telehealth more accessible.

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