Today, FCC Chairman Pai took a positive step in serving our nation’s rural health care providers (HCPs) by seeking an increase in the current Rural Health Care Program funding by $171M. The current Program is capped at an annual rate of $400M, which has not been indexed to inflation since the cap was set in 1997. The recent RHC funding requests of HCPs for the past two years have exceeded the cap, resulting in unprecedented action by the FCC in pro rata reductions in funding requests between 7.5% and 25.6%.
The Chairman’s draft order, circulated today to the other three FCC Commissioners for support, would increase the annual cap for the Rural Health Care Program immediately to $571M to account for the inflation adjustment, as well as allow for ongoing annual inflation adjustments. In addition, the draft order would allow for a rollover of unused funds from prior years to carry forward.
Most importantly, however, the draft order would allow for the increased funding to be used in the current year, which would help alleviate the funding shortfall to HCPs. It is hoped that the Commissioners respond favorably and quickly to the Chairman’s draft order to allow HCPs to receive the much needed relief from the current funding uncertainties and delays in telecom and broadband services that have plagued the Program over the past two years.