Access to healthcare services is critical to good health, yet Alabama rural residents face a variety of access barriers which are apparent to Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, and Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D- Greensboro. Ideally, residents need to access services such as primary care, dental care, behavioral health, emergency care, and public health services. In early 2020, Senator Singleton reached out to Alabama Department of Public Health and Alabama Supercomputer Authority (ASA) to work together to help resolve this issue. A pilot project was planned to access Federal funding through the FCC Rural Health Care Program to help fund internet access to healthcare facilities. Initially, this pilot project would have provided a 65 percent discount for internet access services for each facility.
On April 13, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCC issued the COVID-19 Telehealth Program which provides $200M in funding to healthcare facilities. This program will provide immediate support to healthcare facilities by allowing them to purchase broadband internet services and telehealth equipment to combat COVID-19 in Alabama. Most importantly, it will allow Alabama Healthcare facilities, both rural and non-rural, to get reimbursed at 100 percent of costs which will save thousands of dollars.
The ability to provide telehealth access to rural Alabamians who may not currently have that option was important to Senator Greg Reed.
“I would like to thank the Department of Public Health and the Supercomputer Authority for working with the FCC to make the COVID-19 Telehealth Program a reality. As we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a much-needed service that could potentially save the lives of rural Alabamians who otherwise would not have access to telehealth.” Senator Greg Reed said. “Internet connectivity is something that is so important, especially in our rural areas. We do not want someone to go without vital telehealth services because of a lack of internet and this is a way that we can provide that service to those who need it and at no extra cost to our rural healthcare providers.”
The COVID-19 Telehealth Program offers more benefits than the Rural Health Care Pilot Project that was originally proposed. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pilot project has been suspended to allow the facilities to file for this funding.
The Alabama Supercomputer Authority utilizes the FCC E-rate Program to offer internet services to eligible educational facilities in the State to save them more $10M each year, ASA looks forward to expanding to healthcare facilities in 2021.
For more information, https://www.fcc.gov/covid-19-telehealth-program