FCC proposes rule to lift $400M funding cap on rural telehealth program

The Federal Communications Commission issued a proposed rule to revamp its telehealth-focused Rural Health Care Program Jan. 3.

The Rural Health Care Program provides eligible healthcare providers with funding for broadband and telecommunications services that enhance high-quality care. However, for the second year in a row, the FCC anticipates demand for the program will exceed its allocated funding, which is capped at $400 million per year.

Under the proposed rule, the FCC would examine whether to increase the cap for the program and determine whether it would be appropriate to retroactively raise the cap for funding year 2017, which runs through June 30, 2018.

The funding cap has remained stagnant at $400 million since the program's inception in 1997, leading agency officials to question whether "current RHC Program rules and procedures may be holding back the promise of the RHC Program for the rural healthcare providers that need it most," according to the proposed rule.

The FCC is seeking public comment on the proposed rule until Feb. 2.

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