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Senate Passes Thune Telehealth Amendment

Amendment will increase access to state-of-the-art health care for rural and remote patients and health care providers

October 27, 2005

Washington, DC —  The U.S. Senate today passed an amendment offered by Senator John Thune (R-SD) to the Fiscal Year 2006 Labor-HHS appropriations bill that sets aside $10 million for the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth to increase access to telehealth resources across the nation:

"Whether it's an expectant mother or an elderly individual in need of basic medical attention, access to quality health care is a growing concern for millions of Americans," Thune said. "In this era of modern medicine, telehealth is an important innovation that promises greater access to high-quality health care with reduced costs for patients and health care providers throughout the country. By using telecommunications and information technologies, telehealth has the ability to provide quality health care service at a distance to patients in rural states like South Dakota as well as remote, isolated or even devastated areas across the country.

"Today's passage of my amendment is a huge victory for patients, providers and the greater future of America's health care system. It's a modest investment with considerable potential and will go a long way toward increasing access to quality, state-of-the-art health care for millions of Americans."
Senator Thune's amendment sets aside $10 million for the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth to fund the following grants:

  • $2.5 million to establish a minimum of 10 telehealth resource centers, which provide assistance with respect to technical, legal and regulatory, service delivery or other related barriers to the deployment of telehealth technologies. Two of these centers must be located in a state with a population of less than 1.5 million individuals.

  • $5 million for network grants and telehomecare pilot projects.

  • $2.5 million for grants to state health licensing boards to develop and implement cooperative polices that reduce statutory and regulatory barriers to telehealth.

More than 200 organizations across the country have voiced their support for a $10 million appropriation to the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth.