July 30, 2019

Wyden, Hoeven Lead Bipartisan Group of Senators to Urge Delay of FCC Order on Rural Telehealth Program

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., today led a bipartisan coalition of senators urging the delay of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) order to reform the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program.

In a letter addressed to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the senators outlined their concerns with the FCC’s proposed RHC Program order. The senators highlighted unaddressed obstacles that could effectively limit rural Americans’ access to high-quality health care by preventing health care providers from participating in the program.

“While we recognize your efforts to adopt much-needed improvements to the RHC program, the proposal neither provides sufficient guidance to applicants nor addresses several of the program’s key issues, and will ultimately lead to increased confusion and funding delays for rural health care applicants and providers,” the senators wrote. 

“Given the importance of this program to the nation’s rural and underserved populations and the public interest in a fair and expedient application and review process, we urge you to postpone a decision on the proposed Report and Order so that rural health care practitioners and broadband providers can work with you to address these concerns and allow the program to succeed to its full potential,” the senators continued.

Joining Wyden and Hoeven in sending the letter are U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Angus King, I-Maine, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Tom Udall, D-N.M.

The RHC Program was created by the FCC after Congress passed the Telecommunications Act in 1996. Section 254 of the Telecommunications Act mandates that the FCC make rural health care access a reality by providing public and non-profit rural health care providers affordable rates for telecommunications and broadband services.

The FCC is set to discuss and adopt the proposed RHC Program report and order in its meeting this Thursday, August 1.

A copy of the letter is available here