Rural Telecommunications Act of 2016

Rural Telecommunications Act of 2016

Rural Health Care Connectivity Act of 2016

Soon rural long term care facilities will be able to apply for federal funds to help them pay for faster internet. The federal legislation was signed into law by president Obama on June 22, 2016. The law allows Long Term Care facilities to be covered under the S.1916 Rural health Care Connectivity Act of 2015.

As the medical field adopts more and more technology based services, the need for fast internet connections has become exceedingly necessary. The Rural Health Care Connectivity Act of 2016 that was singed into low will help subsidize the high cost of broadband internet for rural communities where such services are either too expensive or non-existent. The law will allow for funds to be administered to pay the difference in cost between what rural telecommunication companies charge and what urban telecommunications company charge.

With the law to be enacted within 180 days of its signing, you may find that more ISPs (Internet Service Providers) opting to bring greater internet coverages to rural areas. The current law, which was amended to included skilled nursing facilities, states that if there is no approved telecommunication provider in your area then the state will ask a telecommunication company to provide service to the area if it is a public request. The law states that the only caveat to this rule is if the act of providing service is de minimis, or trivial to the company.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The date that Skilled Nursing Facilities will be included into the FCC’s legislation that grants funds for subsidizing telecommunications for Rural Providers.
The Rural Healthcare Connectivity Act of 2016 includes Skilled Nursing Facilities into the list of community health care centers, hospitals, and medical schools that are granted funds to split the difference of the cost of telecommunications based on what urban providers charge and what rural providers charge. This means that if in a major city in your state you can get phone and internet services for $500 less per month less, your facility now may be able to pay the same rate as your urban partners.
The legislation was attached to a chemical safety act which passed both the house and senate before being signed by president Obama on June 22, of 2016. This Act amended the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 254(h)(7)(B)) to include “Skilled nursing facilities (as defined in section 1819(a) of the Social Security Act (42) U.S.C. 1395i-3(a).”
Can I go through any telecommunication company?
The legislation stipulates that you must go through designated telecommunication providers in your area, and also the Universal Service Federal-State Joint Board requires facilities to bid telecommunication service for 28 days prior to accepting the lowest cost bid while also regarding features, quality, reliability, and other factors.
How do I apply for this assistance?
You can apply for assistance if you are eligible under the Rural Healthcare Connectivity Act of 2016 if you are a non-profit entity that offers skilled nursing services in a declared rural area.
The Health Care Providers Universal Service has a Description of Services Requested & Certification Form (FCC Form 465). This form is the first step that you need to take in order to apply for assistance.

How do I know if my facility is in a declared rural Area?

You can use the tool located on the RHCD website here: http://www.usac.org/rhc/telecommunications/tools/Rural/search/search.asp or call the Rural Health Care Division at (800) 453-1546 to see if you are eligible and meet the criteria.
The only exception for meeting the rural location requirement is if your urban facility is required to pay toll charges in order to reach the internet, and in which case the lesser of being paid $180 or 30 hours is available to you.

What entities are covered under this law?
Currently until December 19, 2016 the following entities are eligible:

  • Post-secondary educational institutions offering health care instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools
  • •Community health centers or health centers providing health care to migrants
  • Local health departments or agencies
  • Community mental health centers
  • Not-for-profit hospitals
  • Rural health clinics
  • And on Monday, December 19, 2016:
  • Skilled nursing facilities (as defined in section 1819(a) of the Social Security Act (42) U.S.C. 1395i-3(a)

References:

H.R.2576 – Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act
The United States Telecommunications Act of 1996
Rural Health Care Pilot Program
S.1916 – Rural Health Care Connectivity Act of 2015