Bulletin Staff Report

The Federal Communications Commission has lifted the cap on the Rural Health Care Program, providing increased funding for broadband connections for rural health facilities. The program was established in 1997 with a cap of $400 million per year, but was never indexed to inflation. This year the request for broadband subsidies exceed the cap, forcing across-the-board cuts in subsidies.

The St. Charles Health System stood to lose $120,000 in funding had the cap not been lifted. Hospital officials hosted Sen. Ron Wyden earlier this month to discuss the potential impact. Wyden praised the increase of the cap to $571 million as “a big win” for rural Oregon health care.

“The message was clear at my meetings in recent weeks from the Winding Waters clinic in Joseph to a roundtable at St. Charles Hospital in Bend with rural health care providers,” Wyden said in statement on the increase. “Dependable broadband is a must, so medical information like imaging, X-rays and more can be shared by providers.”