Tuesday, May 22, 2007

California rural lawmakers back UC request for FCC telemedicine pilot funding

The California Legislative Rural Caucus has lent its support to the University of California’s application for $24 million in funding to the Federal Communication Commission Rural Health Care Pilot Program. According to the caucus, the federal funds would be matched with funds from the California Emerging Technology Fund to speed broadband deployment for telemedicine applications in rural areas of the Golden State.

"Together with an investment from the California Emerging Technology Fund, the FCC’s funds will make quality health care more accessible to Californians living in rural areas," the caucus wrote in a May 15 letter to FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin. "Many of the challenges in rural health arise from limited access to core health care services. Lack of access to healthcare may mean that appropriate treatment is delayed or deferred, causing unnecessary hospitalizations, higher costs, and greater disability and personal suffering. Health information technology (HIT) provides powerful tools to enhance access to comprehensive, quality healthcare services in the most geographically isolated areas. HIT can assist rural providers to better coordinate services for their patients by bridging distances and providing immediate access to clinical knowledge, specialized expertise, and services otherwise unavailable in rural areas."

The letter was sent the same week Blue Shield pulled out of four California counties, complaining medical care costs incurred by state and local government workers and retirees covered through the California Personnel and Retirement System (CalPERS) are signficantly higher in rural parts of the state.

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