Mike Garcia, Republican Lawmakers Fight for California Veterans’ Telehealth Access
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Mike Garcia (CA-25) sent a letter along with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Mike Bost, and seventeen other Republican lawmakers to California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) President Marybel Batjer, urging CPUC to refrain from enforcing the net neutrality prohibition law on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) telehealth VA Video Connect.
VA’s Video Connect has provided a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, many telecom carriers waive data consumption for VA Video Connect, which allows for veterans who rely on smartphones but cannot afford unlimited data to access telehealth services. However, California’s 2018 net neutrality law could impact California veterans’ access to critical telehealth services.
“Telehealth provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs’ VA Video Connect application has been a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic, and VA’s partnerships with AT&T, TracFone, T-Mobile, and Verizon have helped increase video telehealth usage to over 40,000 daily appointments. These strategic partnerships between VA and the carriers to waive data consumption for VA Video Connect have significantly increased access for veterans who rely on smartphones but cannot afford unlimited data plans,” the lawmakers wrote.
The lawmakers stressed that it is hard to imagine that the intent of the California Net Neutrality law was to prevent veterans from having access to health care.
“The passage of the California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018 should not invalidate these partnerships, and we have long warned that net neutrality mandates could have these types of impacts,” the lawmakers wrote. “It is hard to imagine that inhibiting the expansion of telehealth access to veterans was anyone’s intention when writing the law, and a clear signal is needed to dispel the regulatory uncertainty.”
In the letter, the lawmakers requested that California Public Utilities Commission refrain from enforcing the state law’s prohibition and exempt the use of the VA telehealth Video Connect system from data limits.
“We may disagree on the adverse impacts net neutrality laws have on consumers, but we should be able to agree that this aspect of the law must be reexamined,” the lawmakers wrote.
Click here to read the full letter.