ATA: Why is FCC silent on health care?

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 18, 2011        

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FCCThe American Telemedicine Assocation (ATA) sent a public letter to the FCC last week, criticizing the agency for inaction on a rural healthcare program. The letter was signed by ATA CEO Jonathan D. Linkous and addressed to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

In the sixteen months since the commission adopted the National Broadband plan, according to Linkous, there has been a “great silence” on the healthcare issue. Also, key professional staff involved have left their positions:

“Despite the promises, the rhetoric and the official criticism, a great silence has settled over the Commission regarding these issues,” Linkous wrote. “Now, we also note the departure of every key professional staff from the Commission involved in healthcare policy. It is deeply troubling to see that the Commission is allotting practically no resources with no apparent plans to address the proposed rulemaking, the approved Broadband Plan or to respond to the GAO report.”

Two of the high profile FCC healthcare professional staff members have left to join the West Wireless Health Institute. Dr Mohit Kaushal the former director of Connected Health at the FCC, joined the West Wireless Health Institute in September as its Executive Vice President of Business Development and Chief Strategy Officer. Last week the FCC’s Director of Healthcare Kerry McDermott accepted a position at the West Wireless Health Institute, the WWHI confirmed for MobiHealthNews.

In addition, of the Commission’s stated goal to provide up to $400 million annually in support of telecommunications to improve healthcare delivery, only about $80 million will be spent this year (outside of a one-time pilot program commitment).

“It is deeply troubling to see that the Commission is allotting practically no resources with no apparent plans to address the proposed rulemaking, the approved Broadband Plan or to respond to the GAO report,” Linkous wrote in the letter.

Linkous told MobiHealthNews that he plans to take the issue to Congress next.

You can read the full letter after the jump.

ATA Criticizes FCC for Inaction, Poor Administration of Rural Healthcare Program

This week, the American Telemedicine Association submitted the following letter to Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, regarding the FCC’s continued mismanagement of the Universal Service Support Mechanism for Rural Healthcare.

* * * Start Letter * * *

The Honorable Julius Genachowski

Chairman

Federal Communications Commission

445 12th Street SW

Washington, DC 20554

In the Matter of:

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,

Regarding the Universal Service Support Mechanism

For Rural Healthcare

(WC Docket No. 02-60)

Mr. Chairman:

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the FCC’s proposed rulemaking regarding the flawed Universal Support Mechanism for Rural Healthcare. Also, it has now been sixteen months since the Commission adopted the National Broadband Plan which included an entire chapter on healthcare policy proposals. Finally, eight months ago, the General Accounting Office issued a report sharply criticizing the Commission’s management of the Rural Health Care Program.

Despite the promises, the rhetoric and the official criticism, a great silence has settled over the Commission regarding these issues. Now, we also note the departure of every key professional staff from the Commission involved in healthcare policy. It is deeply troubling to see that the Commission is allotting practically no resources with no apparent plans to address the proposed rulemaking, the approved Broadband Plan or to respond to the GAO report.

This delay has not been without consequence. Despite the Commission’s stated goal to provide up to $400 million annually in support of telecommunications to improve healthcare delivery, only about $80 million will be spent this year (outside of a one-time pilot program commitment). Thus, the Commission annually leaves over $300 million in funds that could be used immediately to help improve Americans’ access to health services and help reduce the cost of healthcare. With the crisis America faces in healthcare, the Commission’s failure to take action is disturbing.

Over the past three years ATA has repeatedly asked the Commission to make changes in the Rural Healthcare program. We have submitted numerous comments in the proceeding and have publically supported the proposals in the Commissions’ Broadband Plan. We are now making this plea for the FCC to reach a decision in these matters quickly and to implement the approved changes without further delay.

Sincerely,

Jonathan D. Linkous

Chief Executive Officer

American Telemedicine Association

* * * End Letter * * *