FCC proposes changes to Rural Health Care Program rate calculations

It also requests comments on whether to retain the database with such changes, and if so, what rate determination approach to use. The proposal outlines a regression model that could be used to identify a monthly rate that a provider would pay, based on variables like bandwidth, service type, rurality of the region and the state, according to the draft.

“We seek comment on whether the modifications to rurality tiers and service categorizations discussed in this further notice, or any further modifications identified by commenters, will sufficiently address those anomalies,” it reads.

The proposed rule was unanimously adopted by the FCC’s chairwoman and three commissioners at the agency’s February monthly meeting Friday.

“The Telecom Program is a lifeline that supports telehealth efforts in some of the most remote parts of the country,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat. “We have to get our reforms right.”

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, a Republican, spoke of a telehealth program he had seen at a clinic in Manokotak, Alaska, a village miles away from the closest hospital in Dillingham.

“Vital telehealth connections like this are often only possible with support from the FCC’s Rural Health Care Program,” Carr said. “We must ensure that the program provides the required certainty to providers year after year as demand for these types of services continues to expand.”

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