The Universal Service Fund’s Rural Health Care Program (RHCP) provides funding for modern telecommunications and broadband services used to provide health care in rural communities; while skilled nursing facilities provide critical health care services to rural communities, often using telehealth, current law does not allow these facilities to receive support from the RHCP
Bill would allow skilled nursing facilities to access this vital support, improving the health care services they can provide to our rural communities
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD) announced their bipartisan legislation to improve access to rural health care has passed the Senate Commerce Committee. The Universal Service Fund’s Rural Health Care Program (RHCP) provides funding for modern telecommunications and broadband services used to provide health care in rural communities. While skilled nursing facilities provide critical health care support to rural communities, often using telehealth services, current law does not allow these facilities to receive support from the RHCP. The Rural Health Care Connectivity Act, which was introduced by Thune, would allow skilled nursing facilities to access this critical program, improving the health care services they can provide to our rural communities.
“Modern telecommunications has the potential to dramatically enhance health care in rural areas across the country,” Klobuchar said. “This bipartisan bill would support skilled nursing facilities that take advantage of the benefits of telemedicine, and this vote brings us one step closer to ensuring that all Minnesotans have access to high-quality health care no matter where they live.”
“I’m glad the Commerce Committee approved this important legislation, which will help support and improve the services that skilled nursing facilities, like the ones operated throughout the country by Sioux Falls-based Good Samaritan Society, provide to rural America,” said Thune. “We must continue to work toward bringing health care to rural communities that don’t have the access and availability afforded to more urban areas, which is why I’m hopeful the full Senate will be able to consider this legislation without delay.”
Klobuchar has long supported policies to enhance the quality and availability of health care services for rural Minnesotans. She has introduced the Conrad State 30 & Physician Access Act, which would allow international doctors trained in the United States to extend their stay in the country if they agree to practice in underserved communities. She has also supported legislation like the Critical Access Hospital Relief Act and the Protecting Access to Rural Therapy Services Act, which will strengthen and expand access to care in rural areas.
Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, is also a leader in promoting widespread broadband access. She led a bipartisan letter with Senator Thune and 59 other senators calling on the Federal Communications Commission to modernize rules intended to ensure that Americans in rural areas have access to affordable broadband services. She has introduced the bipartisan Rural Spectrum Accessibility Act with Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) to increase wireless broadband access in rural communities by providing incentives for wireless carriers to lease unused spectrum to rural or smaller carriers. She authored the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act to require states to simultaneously install broadband conduits as part of certain federal transportation projects, including building a new highway or adding a new lane or shoulder to an existing highway. The president issued an executive order in 2012 that included an initiative known as “Dig Once” that was derived from this legislation. She also submitted comments to the recently established federal Broadband Opportunity Council in June 2015.