Wednesday, September 7, 2016

FCC Rural Health Care Program Funding Application Process

Dana Halvorson 

The Rural Health Care Connectivity Act of 2015 was passed by Congress and enacted into law on June 22, 2016. The Act authorized eligible rural not for profit skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) to participate in the Rural Health Care Program (RHCP) to assist in payment for broadband expansion and expenses to facilitate and deliver health care services. It also mandated the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow applications by eligible SNFs within 180 days of enactment. The FCC’s Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) administers the universal service fund from the RHCP.

According to a recent press release from USAC, RHCP funding requests reached a historic high of $377.64 million in Funding Year (FY) 2015, and demand may exceed the $400 million funding cap in FY2016 (July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017). To fairly distribute future RHCP funding if the funding cap is reached, the FCC just announced two additional filing window periods for FY2016. The next filing window period is from September 1 - November 30, 2016. If funding remains, the third filing window period will be from February 1 - April 30, 2017. Eligible health care providers are strongly encouraged to submit their funding requests by November 30, 2016, the last day of the upcoming FY2016 filing window period. For questions about the filing window periods, you can contact the RHCP Help Desk via email or at (800) 453-1546.

Suggested first steps are below for SNFs who are eligible and would like to apply for funds from the RHCP to allow reduced rates for broadband expenses:

There are several preparatory steps that are required, and some can be time consuming. You might wish to hire a consultant with expertise in the FCC’s RHCP if you are seriously looking at submitting an application for either FY2016 or FY2017. You might also contact Dan Holdhusen, Director of Government Relations at The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, an AHCA member, who testified on behalf of SNF providers this past Spring at an Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology hearing in support of the Rural Health Care Connectivity Act.  Feel free to also contact AHCA’s Senior Director of Not for Profit and Constituent Services, Dana Halvorson, who has been closely following this matter.   

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