Tester Presses For Expanded Telehealth During COVID-19 Outbreak

Senator: “In this time of crisis, it is imperative we do our part to ensure the safety and security of our health care providers and patient”

U.S. Senator Jon Tester is leading the push for expanded access to telehealth in Montana and across the country in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. To better protect patients and healthcare providers, Tester is calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to waive current rules that slow access, and significantly increase resources for the Rural Health Care Program.

“Telehealth allows providers to deliver health care to patients without putting themselves at risk or requiring vulnerable patients to travel to hospitals and waiting rooms during public health emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic,” Tester and his colleagues wrote to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “It is often cheaper and more efficient than traditional health care delivery methods, allowing health care providers to have a greater impact in their communities.”

The Senators’ letter continues: “For these reasons, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended health care providers use telehealth to direct patients to the right level of care for their health care needs, to conduct initial screenings of patients who may be infected with COVID-19, and to ensure that patients have access to necessary care without potentially exposing themselves by entering a hospital or physician’s office.”

As COVID-19 has spread, the need for telehealth has only grown more urgent-particularly in rural areas-so that clinicians can see patients without putting themselves at risk or requiring vulnerable patients to travel to hospitals and waiting rooms. Expanding access to the Rural Health Care Program will ease the burden on overwhelmed hospitals and reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The Rural Health Care Program supports telehealth by providing resources to support telecommunications services such as broadband internet access.

Tester has led the charge in responding to the coronavirus pandemic. He has introduced legislation to guarantee testing for the virus will be at zero cost, passed bipartisan legislation through the Senate to ensure veterans GI benefits are protected during the outbreak, and he is working to extend the IRS tax filing deadline. He has also doubled down on his efforts to press the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Indian Health Service to provide veterans, VA healthcare staff, and Tribes with access to proper resources and information.

Read Tester’s full letter HERE.