Hoeven: FCC Increases Funding for Rural Telemedicine Services

Senator Co-Led Bipartisan Group in Urging FCC Chairman to Increase RHC Funding

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today issued the following statement after a majority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to increase funding for the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program, which helps rural health care providers and patients access quality health care through telecommunications and broadband services. Hoeven pressed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last month to increase the current funding cap to meet demand and account for future growth of the program. 

“Telemedicine is an important tool to expand access to health care across rural America,” said Hoeven. “The RHC program plays an important role in making these services available, and demand on the program continues to grow. We appreciate Chairman Pai and the commission for heeding our call and approving this funding cap increase. This action will help make health care more convenient and affordable, maintaining the high quality of life enjoyed by our rural residents.”

The RHC Program is one of four Universal Service Fund programs at the FCC, and funding for the program has been capped at $400 million annually since its inception in 1996. The program hit this cap in 2016 for the first time, and exceeded the cap again in 2017, leaving health care providers to pay more for service than expected. Due to the RHC Program hitting the cap, funding for health care providers in North Dakota was delayed for 2017 by eight months and payments were reduced by nearly 26 percent for consortia applicants. This week’s FCC vote follows a letter that Hoeven co-led in the Senate and raises the cap for the RHC Program by $171 million to reflect an inflation-based adjustment.