Skilled nursing facilities can now participate in a $400 million broadband subsidy program for rural health care providers, the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program.
 
Senator John Thune of South Dakota led legislation to bring about this change, and LeadingAge and LeadingAge and CAST member Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society successfully advocated for it. The measure was signed into law last year. The rule amending the RHC Program became effective June 21, 2017, and was published in the Federal Register. 
 
The RHC Program provides funding to health care providers so that they can access the telecommunications and broadband services they need to improve health care for patients in rural communities. It includes these components:

  • The Healthcare Connect Fund encourages high-capacity broadband connectivity and the formation of state and regional broadband HCP networks. The program, which was built on lessons learned from the Rural Health Care Pilot Program, gives eligible health care providers a 65% discount on expenses such as broadband services and equipment and HCP-constructed and owned network facilities.
  • The Telecommunications Program ensures that eligible rural HCPs pay no more than their urban counterparts for telecommunications services.
  • The Rural Health Care Pilot Program was a three-year pilot to bring the benefits of telehealth and telemedicine services to rural areas. It provided funding to build state or regional broadband networks or to connect to existing services.

LeadingAge and CAST have been advocating for increasing internet connectivity for the last several years. Internet connectivity is one of CAST’s Federal Policy Priorities.