By State Sen. Andy Zay (R-Huntington)
When we were faced with going virtual in March, our lives became more reliant on the internet and technology. Some recent numbers on Hoosiers' use of telehealth show just how important connectivity has become.
According to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA), Medicaid claims for virtual telehealth appointments increased from about 76,000 in 2019 to about 350,000 between January and June of 2020. That means we're on track for a nine-fold increase in 2020.
FSSA's numbers also suggest that 70% of patients do not have the appropriate technology or adequate internet service for conducting video-based telehealth appointments. Rural areas are in the most danger of losing access to care if physician practices close as a result of the financial hardships imposed by the pandemic. These concerns validate the need for continued investment in rural broadband to expand health care access and reduce health care costs for Hoosiers.
Our state has taken some steps in the right direction to expand broadband access. Recently, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs released the second round of the Next Level Connections Broadband Grants. In total, rounds one and two of this program have awarded more than $79 million for broadband infrastructure projects that will serve more than 21,900 homes and commercial locations in 41 counties.
While this is a great step forward, we need to do more. I have proposed investing $500 million in federal CARES Act funds to expand rural broadband access. This is part of my six-point plan to jump-start the economy for small businesses and small communities throughout Indiana – Get Main Street Moving Again. An investment like this would require collaboration with the federal and state treasury, and to achieve this goal we need to get moving quickly.
To read more about my "Get Main Street Moving Again" plan, visit www.IndianaSenateRepublicans.com/time-to-get-main-street-moving-again.
A high-resolution photo of State Sen. Zay is available by clicking here.