WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) have joined a bipartisan group of 30 U.S. Senators in urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to increase the funding cap for a program aimed at improving the quality of health care available to patients in rural areas.
In a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the Senators highlight the need to strengthen the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program to address the shortage of broadband connectivity for rural health care providers. The program has been improving the quality of health care available in rural America since 1997, but has never seen a funding increase despite increased demand. The Maryland Hospital Association has expressed its support for the letter.
“In 2016, for the first time ever, the demand for RHC funding exceeded the cap and funding to recipients was reduced by 7.5 percent,” the Senators wrote. “Further, it was recently announced that RHC applicants will suffer a devastating cutback in funding of 16 to 26 percent 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.”
Click here for the full text of the letter to Chairman Pai.
Senators Cardin and Van Hollen were joined in sending the letter by U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Bob Casey (D-PA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Shelley Capito (R-WV), Angus King (I-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tina Smith (D-MN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jon Tester (D-MT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Gary Peters (D-MI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tom Udall (D-NM), Doug Jones (D-AL), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN).