WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) announced that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted Essentia Health in Duluth more than $981,200 for telehealth services.

“Americans have benefited significantly from telehealth during the pandemic and have come to rely on its availability,” said Klobuchar. “This funding will help Essentia Health expand its services and meet the needs of its patients. I’ll continue pushing for resources to ensure Minnesotans in all parts of our state are able to access affordable, quality health care.”

“As Chair of the Rural Development Subcommittee and Co-Chair of the Senate Rural Health Caucus, I’ve made it my goal to highlight the contributions of rural places in Washington. I also want to make sure we’re addressing the unique barriers faced by rural health care providers, which is why I’m so glad this funding will go a long way in helping the Rural Health Resource Center provide great care and retain staff,” said Smith. “When rural health systems are financially stable, we have a more resilient rural health system that can reach more Minnesotans living in rural areas.”

This funding will support the acquisition of remote monitoring devices and video carts with peripheral cameras and stethoscopes/electrocardiograms (EKGs) for care during the pandemic. It will also help 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 says that with the American Rescue Plan, we have the opportunity to provide the emergency relief rural health systems need, and help rural providers build back better. In the Senate, Smith 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.

# # #