While the “CURB Lifeline Act” (HR 4884) that would cap spending and end voice-only service under USF’s Lifeline Program drew the most political fire from Democrats (as well as opposition from industry), another bill could be just as consequential. Representative Lance’s (R-NJ7) “Rural Healthcare Connectivity Act” (HR 4111) was introduced in November alongside identical legislation from Senator Thune (S 1916). Both bills would expand the definition of “heath care provider” under the 1996 Telecommunications Act to include Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs), ensuring they are eligible for support under the Universal Service Fund’s Rural Health Care Program (RHCP). Rep. Lance’s bill received bipartisan praise from the Subcommittee, and while it has had a relatively low-profile to date (only two cosponsors), the growing expectation that Sen. Thune’s bill will see a floor vote in the near future bodes well for the overall effort.
Hearing video and additional information is available here.