Monday, October 14, 2019
FCC adjusts rural health program to boost telehealth; Democratic members say changes could hurt rural providers
"The Federal Communications Commission is making changes to the Universal Service Fund’s Rural Health Care Program in a bid to boost support for telehealth expansion," Eric Wicklund reports for mHealth Intelligence.
The FCC voted last year to add more money to the program and adjust its allocation formula, citing a need for more efficiency and less fraud and abuse. "Launched in 1997, the fund was designed to finance broadband expansion in rural regions and other parts of the country where online connectivity is weak," Wicklund reports. "The fund included a $400 million annual cap, but the agency voted last year to change that cap and add $171 million to match a surge in requests for support."
The decision wasn't unanimous; all three Republican commissioners voted for the changes, but the two Democrats voted against it. "Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks, while both approving the plan, also offered dissenting comments. Both said the agency’s plan to create new methods for determining and prioritizing funding requests could end up doing more harm than good for rural health-care providers," Wicklund reports.