A driving force for health equity

OCHIN Partners with Member Winding Waters Health Centers at Congressional Briefing, Advocating for Rural Broadband

OCHIN continues advocacy efforts for additional funding and administrative improvements to the FCC Rural Health Care (RHC) program, which provides OCHIN members with broadband subsidies. The program was launched in 1996 under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and provides subsidies of up to 65% on monthly broadband costs for eligible clinics and hospitals in rural and medically underserved communities. Over the past two years, demand for RHC broadband subsidies has exceeded allocated funding, driven largely by the growth in broadband needed to support hosted electronic health records and telehealth. 

On Monday, June 10, OCHIN joined forces with the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB) to hold a Congressional briefing in the Dirksen Senate Office building in Washington D.C. SHLB is a D.C.-based non-profit driven by the principle that schools, healthcare providers, and libraries deserve the very best in broadband connectivity to provide services to their communities. The briefing was specifically designed to educate congressional staffers on the unique challenges faced by rural and safety net health care providers.

The OCHIN collaborative was represented by Nic Powers, CEO of Winding Waters Health Centers of rural Enterprise, Oregon, and joined by RHC program participants from Texas, Alaska, and West Virginia. Nic shared his insights on the importance of the RHC subsidies, explaining how this program makes affordable, reliable broadband to his rural clinics possible to support hosted electronic health records and telehealth activities.

“This is an essential program for rural health care providers, and it needs to work a lot better to continue making a positive impact,” said Nic Powers.  “Broadband connectivity underpins so much of the work we do every day and it's so expensive in rural America.”

On July 10, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will decide whether to advance the Connected Care Pilot Program, a proposal for a $100 million fund to support a telehealth pilot program for low-income Americans. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr made the announcement on June 19 from Laurel Fork, Virginia, where he shared details about how the three-year program would support projects designed to help the most vulnerable patients by providing funding for technology and broadband resources needed to support telehealth program in underserved areas.

OCHIN will continue to work with SHLB, our members of Congress, and other stakeholders to inform the rulemaking that will help to meet the needs of OCHIN members.  If you would like to help ensure rural broadband spending is meeting the needs of providers across the country, contact your member of Congress and express your support for additional FCC Rural Health Care program funding.

If you have any questions, please contact Jennifer Stoll, EVP of Government Relations and Public Affairs (stollj@ochin.org).