How Maximizing USAC Funding Can Improve Healthcare Access and Reduce Costs
Internet and telecommunications services are essential tools for healthcare providers seeking to offer the highest quality of medical care for their communities. More recently, the pandemic’s impact has expanded the use of this technology to further enhance connectivity between care teams and patients.
Yet, many people living in rural and remote areas still have trouble electronically connecting with hospitals, clinics and other healthcare providers. According to a Pew Charitable Trusts report, an estimated 30 percent of rural Americans don’t have access to broadband internet access.
Rural healthcare providers typically lag behind their urban counterparts in telehealth services and broadband patient connectivity. This disparity often hinders rural healthcare delivery. Additionally, paying for these services has long been a frustration for rural healthcare providers because they typically face greater internet and telecommunication costs compared to those in metro areas.
Thankfully, the federal government provides funding designed to improve broadband access in rural areas. One of those programs is the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), a nonprofit corporation overseeing funding for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Key considerations when seeking USAC funding
- Scrutinize Invoices to Confirm Valid Connections: When applying for USAC funding eligibility, conduct a thorough analysis of line items on internet and telecommunication service providers’ invoices. This is needed to confirm the accuracy of invoices and which telecom and broadband connections are in use.
- Develop Process to Accelerate Data Retrieval: Upon the completion of the data validation phase, the next step is storing details of your organization’s broadband services in a funding process management application. This will make it much easier to quickly retrieve this information for subsequent USAC funding requests, funding audits, and deeper service analysis.
- Learn Organizational Data Flow: This includes learning as much as possible about your organization’s structure, from both an operational and technical perspective, in order to provide more insight into how data is utilized. This is a critical step in verifying that all of the health system’s data connections are documented properly and meet USAC’s eligibility requirements. This step also allows you to understand if there are gaps or deficiencies in your current communications model and how best to address them.
- Seek Outside Expertise to Achieve Best Pricing in Competitive Bidding for Provider Services: Seeking funding for improved broadband access and infrastructure through the USAC Rural Health Care Program can prove to be a time-consuming and complex process. Outsourcing this function may be the best option for healthcare providers lacking the expertise, time, or both when applying for USAC funding. A reputable consultant ensures your organization stays compliant with the myriad of program rules, requirements, and regulations, and supports you in the event of an audit.
CommonSpirit Health Overcomes USAC Funding Challenges
One striking example of a health system reaping the benefits of outsourcing the USAC funding process is CommonSpirit Health, a large healthcare system that operates 140-plus hospitals and 1,000 care sites in rural and urban areas across 21 states.
Common Spirit was dissatisfied with the amount of USAC funding obtained through earlier attempts and concerned about compliance and transparency of consultants used previously. Impressed with CHC Consulting’s capabilities, they engaged CHC’s team to perform the work required for the massive task of locating all broadband connections, analyzing locations and invoices and confirming USAC funding eligibility for each site.
CHC Consulting was instrumental in helping the organization qualify for five times more USAC funding than the prior year.
Maximizing USAC funding while reducing costs and increasing access is highly critical to the operations of both large and small healthcare organizations, allowing reallocation or investment in needed patient care enhancements. Achieving the desired funding goals requires extensive expertise in delivering a results-driven methodology in tracking and reporting internet and telecommunications expenses.
CHC Consulting helps critical access, rural, and community hospitals, and some of the nation’s largest health systems maximize funding through the USAC program.