Hoeven: FCC Proposes Increased Funding for Rural Health Care Program

Action Comes After Senator Pressed FCC to Strengthen RHC Program and Account for Demand

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today issued the following statement after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a proposal 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 has pressed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to increase the current funding cap to meet demand and account for future growth of the program. 

“Technology and telemedicine are increasingly critical in delivering quality health care in rural areas. The FCC’s Rural Health Care Program provides important resources that enable patients in rural communities to access efficient, quality care,” said Hoeven. “We appreciate the FCC’s proposal to increase funding and account for inflation, which will help to help ensure this program meets the needs of communities.”

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. The FCC’s proposal follows a letter that Hoeven co-led in the Senate, and would raise the cap for the RHC Program by $171 million to reflect an inflation-based adjustment.