State Representative Romaine Quinn (R-Barron) was among a group of experts on a panel discussing telehealth and broadband in Eau Claire September 26. The discussion was hosted by WisPolitics.com and featured Pam Guthman, a clinical assistant professor at UW-Eau Claire’s College of Nursing; Dr. David Blair, chief medical information officer for Mayo Clinic Health System; and Scott Hoffman, CEO of WIN Technology.
The panel discussed challenges of connecting rural homes to broadband, and how that relates to challenges for allowing telehealth to reach its true potential. Quinn touted the WHA-backed Telehealth Bill, AB 410
, for which he is a lead cosponsor. He connected his work to advocate for more broadband funding to other work he and his legislative colleagues are doing to incentivize greater adoption of telehealth. While he said he has been supportive of funding rural broadband grants in Wisconsin for as long as he has been in office, it has not been until relatively recently that other legislators have agreed to put any significant amount of funding into the state budget. Quinn says he was very pleased to see the largest ever investment in rural broadband included in the most recent state biennial budget, at over $40 million. His office continues to hear from constituents wondering how they can access the funding, and how it might help them finally get access to broadband.
But Quinn said this is only part of the equation, because even if someone does have access to rural broadband, Medicaid does not currently reimburse for telehealth services delivered to a patient’s home. He said that was one reason he is proud to be a lead cosponsor of AB 410, as he sees real potential for how telehealth can help improve care available to Medicaid patients in his district while promoting greater access to care for non-Medicaid patients as well.
Quinn also talked about his other efforts to advance health care in Wisconsin, noting his work as a lead author of the Rural Wisconsin Initiative, which funded training grants to advanced practice providers. With the challenges rural communities face in attracting workers, grants like these are invaluable because practitioners who do their residencies and clinical work in rural communities are more likely to stay and practice there. He also noted how rural broadband was also a key factor in attracting young people and highly trained physicians and other health care providers to live in rural communities.