Senator Stevens Introduces Bipartisan Healthcare Legislation
Bill Would Improve Telemedicine in Alaska to Serve Remote Communities
Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) today introduced the Telehealth for America Act of 2008 (S. 3491) at the conclusion of a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, "Why Broadband Matters." After Senator Stevens announced he was introducing the legislation, Senators Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) joined the bill as cosponsors.
"I look forward to moving this bill so that Americans in all parts of the nation can have improved access to quality healthcare, particularly in rural Alaska," said Senator Stevens at the hearing. "Allowing smaller, specialized rural healthcare entities to access the Universal Service Fund will enable them to combine forces with the healthcare community. This will lower costs and improve healthcare for rural Alaskans. The Universal Service Fund program is vital to our schools, libraries, and healthcare providers. It's equally important that these healthcare programs be involved with the advancement of technology and are able to grow with the Internet."
This bipartisan bill would revise the Communications Act of 1934 to allow smaller rural healthcare providers to participate in the Universal Service program, which would allow these smaller healthcare providers to share information, such as medical records, with the rest of the healthcare community. It would also improve training of healthcare personnel through video-conferencing and enhance the overall ability of the healthcare community to provide rapid and coordinated responses to all Americans in a time of crisis.
Specifically, the Telehealth for America Act of 2008 would provide for discounts of up to 60 percent on telecommunications, information services, and network management services for rural healthcare providers. Entities that would be eligible for this discount include, private physician's offices or clinics, nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, emergency medical service facilities, behavioral health facilities, and any facilities deemed eligible by the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide healthcare services to veterans.