The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a Rural Health Care (RHC) Program Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Order at its December Open Meeting. The adopted Order makes some immediate changes for FY 2017:
- Waives the RHC Program’s annual cap on a one-time basis by instructing the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to carry forward any unused RHC Program funds from prior funding years for use in FY 2017, which runs from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018.
- Enables service providers to voluntarily reduce their rates for qualifying FY 2017 requests while keeping the support amount provided by the Universal Service Fund constant.
The item also seeks comment on:
- Increasing the RHC Program’s $400 million annual cap and creating a prioritization mechanism in the event of demand exceeding the cap.
- Establishing a process for evaluating outlier funding requests and reforming the calculation of urban and rural rates in the Telecom Program to improve fairness and transparency.
- Defining the “cost-effectiveness” standard across the RHC Program to encourage more efficient purchasing and fairer competitive bidding.
- Ensuring sufficient funding for rural and Tribal healthcare providers, while maintaining the participation of rural-urban provider consortia.
- Simplifying Program participation and enhancing oversight.
Comments are due 30 days after the item’s publication in the Federal Register, which has not yet occurred.