FCC Extends Funding for Telehealth Services at Rural Medical Centers

TOPIC ALERT:

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission announced it would maintain funding for telehealth services at rural hospitals that was scheduled to end June 30, Becker's Hospital Review reports (Herman, Becker's Hospital Review, 6/24).

FCC will move forward with a rulemaking process in an attempt to make the funding permanent for the approximately 235 affected hospitals nationwide (Grand Island Independent, 6/26).

FCC also is accepting comments on whether health care providers defined as located in a rural area by the agency before July 1, 2005, should be grandfathered in and made permanently eligible for the funding (Becker's Hospital Review, 6/24).

Background

About seven years ago, FCC changed the definition of rural hospital from a facility serving 50,000 patients to one serving 25,000.

Last fall, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) wrote a letter urging the agency to adjust the rule on what constitutes a rural hospital so that certain facilities would not lose funding eligibility (iHealthBeat, 9/28/10).

Sen. Nelson Weighs In

In a statement, Nelson said, "Making support permanent is a common sense way for hospitals to continue offering critical telemedicine and telehealth services to rural patients, their families and their doctors. It saves money, time and lives" (Grand Island Independent, 6/26).


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