WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) announced that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has awarded $1M to Regions Hospital in St. Paul for telehealth services. 

This federal funding, which was granted through the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, will be used to purchase a remote patient care telehealth platform that will allow physicians to remotely examine, diagnose, and monitor patients with chronic conditions to preserve access to care and reduce economic health care disparities.

“Americans have benefited from telehealth during the pandemic and have come to rely on it to access care,” said Klobuchar. “This funding will help Regions Hospital expand its services and meet the needs of its patients with chronic conditions. I’ll continue pushing for resources to ensure Minnesotans are able to access affordable, quality health care.”

“The pandemic has shown us how telehealth services have been a lifeline for patients across Minnesota who may otherwise not be able to access the health care they need,” said Smith. “This funding will help Regions Hospital continue to use telehealth to make health care accessible to patients who are unable to get services in person.”

Klobuchar and Smith also advocated to secure the following funding for the expansion of telehealth services in Minnesota through the COVID-19 Telehealth Program:

  • $21,533 to Native American Community Clinic, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for laptops, tablets, video services and equipment, and network upgrades to provide remote monitoring and treatment, as well as telehealth consultations, and to increase the accessibility of safe medical care for its patient population.
  • $498,818 to Minnesota Community Care, in St. Paul, Minnesota for laptops, phones, remote monitoring equipment, and software licenses to increase telehealth capacity at several clinics, including for COVID-19 testing, treatment and referral, and to expand patient access to telehealth with internet connected devices.
  • $234,352 to CentraCare Health System, a consortium of 27 health care providers in Minnesota, to purchase telehealth equipment and software licenses to increase access to care and services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • $120,305 to Nett Lake Health Services in Nett Lake, Minnesota for telehealth equipment, including computers with built-in cameras, to support remote consultations, thereby assisting its medical personnel in administering telehealth care.
  • $981,204 to Essentia Health in Duluth, an integrated health system in Minnesota, serving patients in the upper Midwest to support the acquisition of remote monitoring devices and video carts with peripheral cameras and stethoscopes/EKGs for care during the pandemic, and to increase wireless broadband coverage at eight clinics to allow for additional space for telehealth patients.

Klobuchar and Smith have championed the expansion of telehealth during the coronavirus pandemic. In July of 2020, they joined a bipartisan group of 30 colleagues in a letter to Senate leadership calling for the expansion of access to telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries made during the coronavirus pandemic to be permanent.

In July of 2021, Klobuchar and Representative Angie Craig (D-MN) sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) encouraging the agency to ensure Minnesotans can access telehealth services beyond the coronavirus pandemic. This followed the introduction of Klobuchar’s legislation with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to enhance telehealth support for seniors and increase access to technology for "virtual visits" during the coronavirus pandemic.

Smith helped introduce bipartisan legislation to make permanent the Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services that had been temporarily allowed during the pandemic for services such as physical and occupational therapy, audiology, and speech language pathology. Smith has pushed for advancing telehealth during the pandemic and beyond. She successfully worked to secure $500 million for the Community Facilities Program to help rural hospitals respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen their operations moving forward, including by expanding telehealth access, strengthening the health care workforce and expanding nutrition assistance. She also led the push this year to improve access to tele-mental health care during the pandemic, by introducing the bipartisan Tele-Mental Health Improvement Act and Home-Based Tele-mental Health Care Act in March.

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