The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government today held a hearing on the Federal Communications Commission’s and Federal Trade Commission’s budget request for fiscal year 2019. During the hearing, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai if he supported increasing funding to the Rural Health Care Program, which provides funding to help hospitals and others expand access to care in rural areas through telehealth and broadband services. “While I can’t say exactly what the number should be, I can say that I do support increasing the program,” Pai said. “This is one of the critical programs within the Universal Service Fund and it’s often one that gets overlooked.” Pai noted the importance of telehealth to rural communities and shared he recently visited a school-based program in Scottsville, KY, which allows children in Allen County – where there is not a single pediatrician – to see an expert at Vanderbilt University’s Children’s Hospital. “That is significant and that is something the Rural Health Care Program that we administer should try to support.” AHA has voiced support for an FCC proposal to adjust the funding cap annually for inflation, including a “catch up” increase for FY 2017. Thirty-one senators this week urged the FCC to "sufficiently increase" the funding cap for the Rural Health Care Program. The $400 million annual cap has been unchanged for more than 20 years.

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