FCC Unanimously votes to increase Rural Telehealth budget by $171 million

Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai recently requested an increase in the annual funding cap for the Rural Health Care Program by $171 million. The Rural Health Care Program funds the essential technical infrastructure for telecommunications companies to work with rural healthcare providers and their telehealth efforts and the transmission of electronic health records in rural America.

The Rural Health Program funding cap was set in 1997 without an inflation index, 20 years later the demand for the program far exceeds the $400 million cap, leaving rural healthcare providers and telecommunications companies unable to deliver. Recently, a united bipartisan group of senators called upon the FCC to increase the funding cap, noting healthcare providers, “will encounter severe rate increases for their broadband services, making it even harder for rural healthcare practitioners to engage in life-saving telemedicine.”  Also in this letter to the FCC, the senators cited a recent survey published in the Journal of Rural Health that shows 59 percent of health clinics have a connection speed that is a mere one percent of the capacity recommended by the National Broadband Plan.

Ultimately, the FCC unanimously passed a vote to increase funding of the Rural Health Care Program, signaling further commitment to the necessity of telehealth services in the rural American healthcare community. The 43% increase is set to match the funding set for 2017 had it been indexed for inflation and will go into place immediately to meet the current demands.

Eligible entities for support include, but is not limited to: Community Health Centers, Community Mental Health Centers, Not-For-Profit Hospitals, Rural Health Clinics (RHCs), and Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) as of January 1, 2017. To learn more about how the Rural Health Care Program may help support your organization, visit the links below:

Welcome To The Rural Health Care Program

Rural Health Care Program Information – FCC