Rural Health Care Program

The Problem

Telehealth Tablet

For the first time, demand for funds in the RHC Program exceeded its $400 million cap in fiscal year 2016, resulting inserious cutbacks. In 2018, the FCC announced a pro-rata reduction of funding for Individual applicants of over 15% and an astounding 25% reduction for consortium applicants.  This funding shortage could cause some healthcare providers to lose broadband connections, harming patients who rely on telemedicine services. At a time when rural Americans are struggling to obtain high-quality Internet connections and are also suffering from the closure of rural hospitals, this funding reduction will lead to price increases for health care providers across the country and have a devastating impact on the quality of rural healthcare.

The SHLB Coalition has led the charge in advocating the FCC to reform the RHC Program. 


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Ex Parte Letter to the FCC and USAC Regarding the Operation of RHC Program
March 15, 2019 

SHLB submitted an ex parte filing to express its deep concern regarding the operation of the RHC program.


Download the Letter 


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Reply Comments to FCC on RHC Proceeding
February 13, 2019

SHLB submitted reply comments to the FCC in the proceeding WC Docket No. 17-310, urging the Commission to reject AT&T's proposal to phase out the Telecom Program outside of Alaska.



Download the Reply Comments


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Comments to the FCC on ongoing issues with RHC Program
January 30, 2019 

SHLB submitted these comments in response to the Wireline Competition Bureau’s public notice seeking comment on how to determine the urban and rural rates in the Telecom Program. The FCC’s current proposal suggests calculating the rural rate that carriers may charge using an average of all “publicly available” rates. SHLB’s comments express concern that this proposal would create an unpredictable process, as rates vary based on technology and location, and are particularly difficult to triangulate in rural areas.


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Ex Parte Letter to FCC on RHC Proceedings, WC Docket Nos. 02-60, 17-310
November 27, 2018

The ex parte letter describes SHLB's frustration with the lack of transparency with the RHC program and the pace of funding decisions for 2018 applicants.



Download the Ex Parte Letter


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SHLB Connected Care Comments for FCC WC Docket No. 18-213
September 10, 2018 

These comments offer support and recommendations for the Connected Care Pilot Program the FCC proposed in a Notice of Inquired released on August 3, 2018.


Download the Comments 


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Senate Letter to the FCC Calling for RHC Reform
May 14, 2018

A bipartisan group of thirty-one senators sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) calling for reform of the Rural Health Care program.



Download the Senate Letter


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SHLB Ex-parte on FCC Meetings regarding SHLB's RHC Petition
May 3, 2018 
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SHLB Emergency Petition for Waiver of RHC Program Funding Cap
April 3, 2018

The SHLB Coalition filed an emergency petition with the FCC asking it to waive the Rural Health Care (RHC) program’s $400 million funding cap and fully fund qualified applications until the open rulemaking proceeding to reform the program concludes.

The Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) recent announcement that it will cut funding by over 15% for individual RHC applicants and 25% for consortium applicants for Funding Year 2017 (FY2017) will severely degrade the quality of healthcare in rural America. The announced funding cuts were much larger than the 7.5% reduction for FY2016 and were announced over eight months into the funding year. These severe cuts in funding effectively impose retroactive rate increases on healthcare providers who have been receiving service from July 1, 2017.



Download the Letter


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SHLB RHC Program Reform Reply Comments for FCC WC Docket No. 17-310
March 5, 2018 
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SHLB RHC Program Reform Comments for FCC WC Docket No. 17-310
February 2, 2018
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FCC WC Docket No. 17-310 "Promoting Telehealth in Rural America" for RHC Program (cites SHLB 5 times)
November 22, 2017
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SHLB Multi-Signatory Letters to House and Senate on RHC Reform
November 1, 2017
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SHLB Press Release Encouraging RHC Reform after USAC Announces Decreases in FY2016 Funding

April 10, 2017

Washington, DC (April 10, 2017) - The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) announced earlier today that qualifying applicants in the Rural Health Care Program who submitted requests for funding during the September – November 2016 filing window period will not be fully funded.  Qualifying applicants for the FY2016 September – November filing window period will receive a pro-rata percentage of 92.5% of their requested funding (a reduction of 7.5%).


Read the Full Press Release


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Senators' Letter Calling on FCC To Protect Broadband Funding for Rural Healthcare Clinics
February 27, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) led five of his colleagues, including Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), in sending a bipartisan letter calling on the Federal Communications Commission to work to avoid cuts or spending reductions to the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program, which helps deliver vital health care services and telemedicine to people who live in rural areas by providing funding for broadband.


Read the Press Release 


View SHLB Health Documents 2013-2016 →


SHLB Rural Health Care Infographic

Rural Health Care Infographic

(Click image to view full infographic)