The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has added an additional $198 million in funding to its Rural Health Care Program. These funds will be used to increase broadband services and telecommunications to bolster telehealth/telemedicine services for rural healthcare providers. Funding for rural healthcare providers was initially capped at $605 million in 2020, but the added funds will now allow the FCC to provide over $800 million to eligible providers.
Telehealth, in direct response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, has undergone a massive expansion since March. Telehealth encounters are up exponentially as patients look for a safe, socially distant, option to receive health care services and providers try to keep vital hospital space available for COVID-19 care. Technical barriers, such as the lack of a strong broadband infrastructure, has limited the wide adoption of telehealth in rural areas. The FCC aims to combat the technical limitations, as this funding will help improve technology platforms and internet connectivity, so that patients have expanded access to affordable and efficient care.
Eligible providers for the Rural Health Care Program include:
- post-secondary educational institutions offering health care instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools;
- community health centers or health centers providing health care to migrants;
- local health departments or agencies;
- community mental health centers;
- not-for-profit hospitals;
- rural health clinics;
- skilled nursing facilities; and
- a combination of health care providers consisting of one or more entities falling into the first seven categories.
Please contact your primary BMD Healthcare & Hospital Law Group attorney if you have any questions regarding the Rural Health Care Program, this additional funding and how to apply for the use of funds, or any other general healthcare questions.