Rural Health Care Program Rule Changes Accelerated

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The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) has issued an Order accelerating the effective date of certain rule changes to the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program. The RHC Program has two component programs: (1) the Telecom Program, which provides eligible health care providers with discounted telecommunications services in rural areas; and (2) the Healthcare Connect Fund Program, which supports the delivery of broadband services and development of state and regional health care networks. In 2019, the FCC adopted a number of RHC rule changes, including expanding site and service substitution rules available in the Healthcare Connect Fund Program to the Telecom Program; amending Service Provider Identification Number (SPIN) change processes to allow for corrective and operational changes in both programs; establishing June 30 as the service delivery deadline date for all services and providing a one-year service delivery deadline extension for all non-recurring services; and adopting a uniform invoicing extension and deadline for both RHC programs. In December 2019 the Bureau initially decided to delay the effective date of these rule changes due to timing issues between Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval and the 2020 funding year. Due to the unprecedented need for remote telehealth options caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bureau decided to accelerate the effective date of the rule changes. Now, the new rules will take effect 30 days after the Order’s publication in the Federal Register.

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