Tester Doubles Down on Push to Expand Telehealth in Montana as Pandemic Continues

Senator urges FCC Chairman Pai to consider needs of rural Montana when allocating funds

Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and after Montana health care providers were left out of a critical telehealth expansion program, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is doubling down on his push to improve access to telehealth services in Montana and calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to prioritize the areas that need it most.

In a letter to FCC Chair Ajit Pai, Tester requested detailed information about the program’s selection process and urged the FCC to include Montana in implementing the Connected Care Pilot Program, which helps health care providers purchase telehealth equipment and broadband connectivity to implement telehealth services.

“Telemedicine efficiently connects folks with their doctors, eliminates geographic barriers, and reduces healthcare costs, all while limiting exposure to the COVID-19 virus,” Tester wrote. “…While I’m supportive of the FCC exploring new ways to expand telehealth service, I have strong concerns that these efforts will not prioritize or include the areas that need them the most.”

Tester specifically called on Pai to explain how funding for the Connected Care Pilot Program will be allocated, and told him to consider the specific needs of rural areas when allocating funds.

“My state responded quickly and effectively to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but the fight is not over and we cannot afford to miss these opportunities to improve access to health care,” Tester continued. “Given this exclusion, the FCC must be transparent on implementation of the Connected Care Pilot Program.”

Tester has fought tirelessly to expand access to telehealth services in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. He recently secured nearly $300,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds for telehealth programs in Montana, and called for audio-only telehealth reimbursements to level the playing field for seniors and others without reliable broadband access during the coronavirus outbreak. He also urged the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand critical telemental health services for veterans and successfully secured $2.15 billion to bolster telehealth capabilities through increased telework and call center capabilities in the CARES Act.

Tester’s letter is available HERE.

Visit tester.senate.gov/coronavirusresources for a list of resources for Montanans during the COVID-19 outbreak