Federal Communications Commission voted to increase funding cap for rural program from $400 million to $571 million following advocacy from Senators

Following advocacy from U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill and a bipartisan group of Senators last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently voted to expand support for a program aimed at reducing broadband costs in order to improve the quality of healthcare available to patients in rural areas.

“Healthcare providers in rural Missouri face many challenges as they fight to stay afloat and provide the critical services Missourians depend on—and this additional funding will go a long way towards helping achieve that goal,” McCaskill said. “We’ve got a lot more work to do to expand broadband throughout the state and give our rural healthcare providers the tools they need, but this news is a very welcome step in the right direction.”

The FCC voted this week to raise the cap on the Rural Health Care Program from $400 million to $571 million, as well as allow funding to automatically increase with inflation. Last month, McCaskill joined a bipartisan group of Senators in highlighting the need to strengthen the program to address the shortage of broadband connectivity for rural health care providers. The program has been improving the quality of healthcare available in rural America since 1997, but had never seen a funding increase despite increased demand.

Receiving $5.5 million in 2016, Missouri ranks 12th among the states in total amount of Rural Health Care Program funding. The FCC’s Connect2Health Task Force has identified nine Missouri counties as “critical need” counties that should be prioritized for public and private broadband investment in order to improve public health.

McCaskill has been a longtime advocate for improving access to quality healthcare in underserved communities. McCaskill supported a bipartisan proposal to improve Missourians’ access to care by expanding telehealth services in Medicare, and at a recent Senate hearing, she shared feedback she received from Missourians on the challenges facing rural communities due to a lack of doctors.

McCaskill is also backing a proposal that would increase the number of doctors in rural Missouri by requiring Medicare to reimburse medical residency training programs for medical residents. Hospitals and health centers find that providers who train in their hospitals are more likely to return and serve in that community. In response to rural hospital closures across the country, McCaskill called for an investigation into the challenges these hospitals face, trends in rural hospital closures, and recommendations for the federal government about addressing these issues.

Visit mccaskill.senate.gov/rural to learn more about McCaskill’s fight to protect rural Missouri.

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