Thirty-one senators today urged the Federal Communications Commission to “sufficiently increase” the funding cap for the Rural Health Care Program, which helps rural patients access care through telehealth and broadband services. The $400 million annual cap has been unchanged for more than 20 years. “In 2016, for the first time ever, the demand for RHC funding exceeded the cap and funding to recipients was reduced by 7.5%,” the senators note. “Further, it was recently announced that RHC applicants will suffer a devastating cutback in funding of 16% to 26% in funding year 2017 because of continued growth in demand. Unless the spending cap is raised appropriately to account for current needs and future growth, health care providers in rural areas will encounter severe rate increases for their broadband services, making it even harder for rural health care practitioners to engage in life-saving telemedicine.” The bipartisan letter was spearheaded by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and John Hoeven (R-ND). AHA has voiced support for an FCC proposal to adjust the funding cap annually for inflation, including a “catch up” increase for FY 2017.

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