SHLB Coalition Applauds the FCC’s Initial Steps to Reform the Rural Health Care Program December 14, 2017
For Immediate Release:
December 14, 2017
Communications Manager, SHLB Coalition
Washington, DC (December 14, 2017) - The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition applauds the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 5-0 vote to begin reforming the Rural Health Care (RHC) program. The vote today seeks comment on increasing the cap for the RHC Program and other reforms to improve the operations and efficiency of the program. This Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposes reforms that are urgently needed because applications for RHC funding exceeded the funding cap in both FY 2016 and FY 2017.
The following statement can be attributed to John Windhausen, Jr., Executive Director of the SHLB Coalition:
“We thank the FCC for its bi-partisan vote to begin reforming and improving the RHC program. As the Commissioners noted, the RHC program is facing a funding crisis. Healthcare providers encountered increasing prices last year and substantial uncertainty about future funding. Providing sufficient funding for rural health care providers’ broadband will promote telemedicine in communities that have severe shortages of doctors, aging populations, and greater distances to travel to reach medical experts.
“We are especially pleased that the FCC adopted the SHLB Coalition’s request to roll over prior years’ unused funds to help address the funding shortfall. We are also pleased to hear that the FCC agreed to ask for comment on how to improve transparency and to consider including remote home telemonitoring, as SHLB requested. While the discussion of abuse in the RHC program was a bit overstated, SHLB looks forward to working with the Commission to curtail any improprieties. The SHLB Coalition intends to build on the momentum of this vote to address the funding concerns of both individuals and consortia applicants alike. After all, investing in the RHC program is an investment in the health and well-being of America’s heartland.
“The RHC program is the only Universal Service Fund program that has not been significantly reformed in the past few years. The current $400 million per year cap was set by the FCC twenty years ago. Increasing the RHC funding cap would have a huge impact on the quality of healthcare in rural America and will have only a minimal impact on consumers’ telephone bills. We look forward to engaging with the FCC further to offer our recommendations and guidance.”
The SHLB Coalition has strongly advocated for RHC reform in the past two years. SHLB, along with 35 health care providers and telehealth networks from across the country, sent a letter to Congressional leaders last month asking them to support an increase in funding. In addition, SHLB filed a petition with the FCC to modernize the Rural Health Care program in 2015 and filed a letter requesting interim relief from funding shortages in 2016. Visit http://www.shlb.org/policy/Rural-Health-Care to learn more about SHLB’s advocacy to improve our nation’s telehealth.
The SHLB Coalition is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) advocacy organization that supports open, affordable, high-capacity broadband connections for anchor institutions and their surrounding communities. The SHLB Coalition is based in Washington, DC and has a diverse membership of commercial and non-commercial organizations from across the United States. To learn more, visit www.shlb.org.