FCC Seeks To Distribute $400M To Boost Rural Health Care Networks
On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote on a proposal to allot $400 million to help rural health care providers tap into broadband connections, the Washington Post's "Post Tech" reports.
The broadband health infrastructure program stems from FCC's National Broadband Plan, which was released in March and outlined FCC's goals for extending high-speed broadband and health information technology connectivity as part of the 2009 federal economic stimulus package.
What the Plan Would Do
Under the proposal, FCC would raise the subsidies it gives for health provider service costs from 25% to 50%, and the agency also would cover 85% of the construction costs for new or upgraded broadband networks in areas with weak infrastructure for health IT.
The funding is part of the $8 billion annual phone subsidy known as the Universal Service Fund.
In addition, FCC would extend the eligibility criteria to allow skilled nursing facilities, acute care facilities, off-site administrative offices and data centers, and renal dialysis centers to apply for the payments.
The move would increase the number of eligible rural health care providers from about 9,800 entities to roughly 12,000 (Kang, "Post Tech," Washington Post, 7/15).
Also on Thursday, FCC will launch a rule-making process to create the proposed infrastructure fund, which is based on a pilot project that the agency created three years ago to assist hospitals and health care providers cover the cost of network upgrades. However, the pilot program was significantly underutilized.
Officials hope to use lessons learned from the pilot project to implement the new, permanent fund, which they say could save as much as $700 billion over the next 15 to 25 years through broader adoption of remote patient monitoring and electronic health record systems (Jerome, "Hillicon Valley," The Hill, 7/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.