PRESS RELEASE: SHLB Commends Bipartisan Group of Senators for Urging FCC to Increase Rural Health Care Funding May 14, 2018
For Immediate Release:
May 14, 2018
Communications Manager, SHLB Coalition
Washington, DC (May 14, 2018) - A bipartisan group of thirty-one Senators sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today calling for greater funding for the Rural Health Care (RHC) program. The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, a broad-based membership organization that includes health providers and telehealth networks, has been advocating for RHC reform since December of 2015 and highly commends the Senators’ strong show of support.
The following statement can be attributed to John Windhausen, Jr., Executive Director of SHLB:
“The SHLB Coalition is extremely pleased that such a large and bipartisan group of Senators has called for more funding for the FCC's Rural Health Care (RHC) program. Congress created the RHC program in the same statutory provision that established the E-rate program, a sign that Congress intended both programs to be given the highest priority in our universal service system. Yet the $400 M cap on the RHC program has remained set in stone for over 20 years and simply does not reflect the enormous changes in the rural health care marketplace, including the closure of scores of rural hospitals, the improvements in telemedicine, the growth of electronic medical records, the doubling of eligible health care providers, and the rural broadband gap. The Senate letter suggests the FCC should move forward quickly to reform and augment the Rural Health Care program as requested by the SHLB Coalition in our December 2015 Petition for Rulemaking.”
The FCC launched a proceeding to reform the RHC program in December of 2017. In our comments filed with the FCC, the SHLB Coalition estimated that the number of eligible entities has more than doubled since the $400 million cap was set in 1997. In addition, the cap has not been adjusted for inflation or to reflect the dramatic changes in the healthcare and broadband marketplaces in the past twenty years.
The SHLB Coalition previously filed comments and reply comments in the FCC’s WC Docket No. 17-310 with the following four main recommendations to reform the Universal Service Fund program: 1) Increase the cap to $800 million to meet the current demand; 2) Encourage the formation of consortia in the Healthcare Connect Fund; 3) Establish funding tiers to ensure funds are distributed to the most rural areas; and 4) Improve administrative efficiency, transparency, and protection against waste, fraud, and abuse. Visit http://www.shlb.org/policy/Rural-Health-Care to learn more about SHLB’s advocacy to improve our nation’s telehealth.