U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today announced a federal grant totaling $100,000 to help strengthen telehealth services across Central Virginia, particularly in underserved and rural communities that lack access to affordable healthcare.
The award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be disbursed through HHS’s Rural Health Network Development Planning Grant Program, and will go to support the work of the Virginia Rural Health Association. The Virginia Rural Health Association is a nonprofit that serves the 2.5 million people who live in rural areas of the Commonwealth.
“For years, rural Virginians have been facing healthcare challenges like hospital and clinic closures, long wait times, and a shrinking number of doctors and specialists. During COVID-19, the barriers to accessing affordable healthcare have become even higher. Telehealth has become the only option for many rural seniors, families, veterans, and patients with chronic conditions,” said Spanberger. “Pandemic or no pandemic, living in a rural zip code should never condemn an American to going without the treatment and care they need. I’m encouraged by the emphasis that HHS has placed on telehealth services during this public health crisis, and I thank them for partnering with the Virginia Rural Health Association to provide telehealth solutions to more Central Virginians. This federal investment will help preserve the lifeline of telehealth for more of our rural neighbors as they live, work, farm, and raise their families during this challenging time.”
Many rural communities across the state faced healthcare access challenges prior to the pandemic – such as hospital closures and weak or nonexistent internet connection – and COVID-19 has multiplied the barriers standing between rural Virginians and affordable healthcare. Since the pandemic began impacting Virginia in March, Spanberger has supported multiple provisions to increase federal investment in telehealth services, a vital tool for reaching rural, underserved, and senior populations.
Last month, Spanberger worked across the aisle with U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson (R-SD) to lead a bipartisan push for telehealth support in the next COVID-19 relief package. She built on these efforts by working to include telehealth and broadband expansion as vital priorities in the Problem Solvers Caucus bipartisan framework for COVID-19 relief negotiations.
In July 2020, Spanberger helped introduce a bipartisan bill that would require HHS to track the impact of expanded telehealth programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation would mandate a study to understand the impact that telehealth has had on key metrics like hospital readmission rates, so lawmakers and HHS officials can efficiently maximize the impact of future investments to help more Americans.
In April 2020, Spanberger cosponsored the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, a bipartisan bill that would cut red tape to allow Medicare beneficiaries to take advantage of telehealth services.