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Coronavirus Bill Lifts Some Restrictions on Telehealth

Congress is employing broadband in the fight against the coronavirus. 

The COVD-19 supplemental funding package that was signed by President Trump Friday (March 6) included a provision waiving telehealth restrictions for Medicare beneficiaries so they can still get diagnostic care and treatment while limiting possible exposure and spread of the virus. 

That was good news for telehealth association ATA.  

"We are heartened by the swift actions being taken by Congress to put the right tools in the hands of healthcare professionals to effectively address the COVID-19 outbreak," said ATA CEO Ann Mond Johnson. "Many ATA members are providing solutions that are helping to keep people safe and out of hospitals and doctors' offices, map the virus and triage individuals needing medical care. Telehealth is well-suited to provide one-to-many care that is safe, effective and efficient. We are seeing the significant value telehealth offers, not only in public health emergencies, but also in day-to-day care delivery." 

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) this week called on the FCC to look into how it can help boost access to telehealth during the virus outbreak. 

Citing FCC temporary rules adopted during past emergencies, like Hurricane Katrina, she asked FCC chair Ajit Pai to explore whether the FCC can put existing authority and programs to aid in coronavirus response. She pointed out that during Katrina, the FCC adopted temporary rules to help support telemedicine. 

The FCC has received the letter and was still reviewing it at press time, according to a spokesperson. 

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.