Rural Health Care

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Funding Year
Electronic Certification
Eligibility
Services Eligible for Discount
Applying for Supported Services
Forms Assistance
Calculating Support
My Portal
My Portal - Consultants

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Funding Year

Q1: When can I apply for support for each funding year?

A1: RHC accepts the FCC Form 465 for posting typically beginning in late March or early April for the upcoming funding year, and will accept them until June 30th of the following year (as an example, RHC opened Funding Year 2010 on March 15, 2010 and will accept applications until June 30, 2011). The date for "window opening," or the date when RHC begins accepting FCC Forms 465 for the upcoming funding year, is posted on the RHC homepage and announced well in advance. To ensure a full year of support, applicants should post their FCC Forms 465 before June 1st.

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Q2: I have submitted an FCC Form 465. What do I do next?

A2: In most cases, FCC Forms 465 must be posted on the USAC website for at least 28 days before a health care provider (HCP) may select a service provider. This ensures that service providers interested in providing the service have an opportunity to contact the HCP. After an HCP selects a service provider, the applicant must fill out and submit an FCC Form 466 before a funding commitment can be issued. Once a funding commitment is issued, the HCP submits FCC Form 467 to confirm the Service Start Date. USAC will then arrange for the selected service provider to begin providing the discounted service.

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Q3: What other documentation do I need to send in with the FCC Form 466?

A3:

  • A copy of the bill, contract, or a letter from a service provider verifying the rural rate
  • Documentation of the urban rate, if you have chosen to document your own rates instead of those provided by RHC
  • A signed copy of the contract with the service provider, if applicable
  • Documentation of bids received, if you have indicated in Block 7 that you received bids
  • A circuit diagram, if you have a multi-bill circuit or are a member of a large consortium

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Q4: Where do I enter the rural rate for the urban/rural rate comparison?

A4: This information should be entered in Block 4, Line 33: "Actual Rural Rate per Month."

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Q5: How do I obtain the urban rate?

A5: The urban rate can be found in the Urban Rate's Search on the website. Alternatively, an HCP can choose to calculate its own urban rate. An urban rate must be for a functionally similar service in any city with a population of 50,000 or more in your state, with identical terms (i.e., if the HCP has a three-year contract, then a three-year contract rate must be used in calculating the urban rate). The circuit distance must be equal to the Standard Urban Distance for your state.

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Q6: How do I e-certify my form?

A6: E-certification can be enabled by using your HCP number and password to log into My Portal. Your "e-cert status" is shown at the top. If it is enabled, the name of the person who enabled the e-certification and the date it was enabled appear. If it is not yet enabled, click on the link to enable it.

 

Once e-certification has been enabled, look under "Form 466 Status Info." You will only have the option of creating a new FCC Form 466 using data pre-filled from the previous funding year if:

  • You received funding in the previous year, or
  • You created an FCC Form 466 using a blank form.


After you have created the form, fill in the necessary information on each page and click "Submit." You will see a confirmation of your FCC Form 466 submission. The contact person associated with that HCP number will receive an email confirming that RHC received an e-certified FCC Form 466.

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Q7: Can I submit the prefilled form as-is if there are no changes?

A7: The form requires certain information that is not pre-filled. In particular, you cannot submit the FCC Form 466 unless the service cost per month (Block 4, Line 33) and Block 5 or Block 6 are completed. If this information is not provided, you will be unable to submit the form.

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Q8: I've electronically certified my FCC Form 466. Now what?

A8: Make sure to complete the process by sending RHC the documentation necessary to process your form. Label the documents with your HCP number.

Documentation includes:

  • A copy of the bill, a signed contract, or a letter from a service provider verifying the rural rate;
  • Documentation of the urban rate if you have chosen to document your own rate for FCC Form 466;
  • A copy of the signed contract with the service provider, if applicable;
  • Documentation of bids received if you indicated in FCC Form 466 Block 7 that you received bids; and
  • A circuit diagram, for FCC Form 466, if you have a multi-bill circuit or are a member of a large consortium.

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Q9: What is acceptable documentation?

A9: For the rural rate, RHC will accept a copy of a telephone bill, a copy of the signed service agreement with the service provider, or a letter from the service provider on company letterhead. Any of these items must contain the health care provider's name and location, type of service, and cost.

 

Documentation of the urban rate will require an explanation of how the rate was calculated. RHC recommends viewing the guidelines for calculating urban rates. The copy of the contract must bear two signatures, one from the service provider and the other from the HCP. The circuit diagram should show RHC how the circuit(s) for the HCP is/are connected, as well as the service provider(s) involved. Labels for the circuits (such as circuit ID and/or service type), relevant place names and addresses, and textual explanations are most helpful. Hand-drawn circle and stick diagrams are acceptable if they clearly show and label the information listed above.

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Q10: Does the bill have to be signed? Must it be an original copy? How recent should it be?

A10: No. A photocopy of the bill will suffice. RHC does not require that the bill bear anyone's signature. The bill must be from the current funding year.

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Q11: How do I submit my documentation?

A11: Supporting documentation should be submitted online through My Portal.

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Q12: Is there a deadline for applications?

A12: Forms must be received by RHC in time to meet program year requirements. The absolute deadline to submit an FCC Form 466 is June 30, the end of the funding year. Although FCC Forms 465 and 466 may be filed at any time during the funding year, all forms received by RHC during the form Filing Window will be treated as if they had arrived on the same day for purposes of funding priority.

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Q13: If an HCP is receiving support during the current funding year, how can it ensure there will not be an interruption of support for the upcoming funding year?

A13: In most cases, the FCC Form 465 must be posted on the RHC website for 28 days to become eligible to receive support during the upcoming funding year. Therefore, an HCP with existing service should submit its FCC Form 465 for the upcoming funding year so that it can be posted for 28 days prior to the July 1 start of the funding year.

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Electronic Certification

Q14: What is electronic certification?

A14: Electronic certification, or e-certification is an electronic, mutually agreed-upon substitute for a person's actual physical signature. A document signed by this method carries the same weight as one signed by hand.

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Q15: What does e-certification do?

A15: The forms used for RHC's application process have always required paper submission, bearing an original signature. But e-certification allows an authorized individual to submit FCC forms electronically, removing the need to submit paper copies. Applications electronically certified and submitted will automatically be posted to the RHC website and applicants will receive electronic notification of a successful e-certified posting.

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Q16: Who is eligible to electronically certify?

A16: Authorized individuals for HCPs that have successfully posted an FCC Form 465 are eligible to e-certify.

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Q17: What do I need to enable electronic certification?

A17: To enable e-certification, an authorized individual needs the HCP number and password of the HCP for which the e-certification will be enabled.

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Q18: Where can I use electronic certification?

A18: In RHC's application process, all FCC Forms (465, 466, and 467) are available for e-certification.

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Q19: After I enable the electronic certification, can someone else in my office use it to submit forms online?

A19: When you enable the electronic certification, it will be tied to both the health care provider for whom you are applying as well as the authorized individual applying on behalf of the HCP. The use of this electronic certification is the equivalent of the authorized person's actual signature for the health care provider. Since it represents the signature of an individual, no other person can use it.

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Q20: I enabled my e-certification. Now what do I do?

A20: In the RHC Program section of the website, click on "My Portal." This will allow you to log into the RHC site to submit your form. Once logged in, you will see two options for the FCC Form 465: "Create Form 465," and "Create Form 465 (E-Signature)." In order to submit electronically, choose the "E-Signature" option.

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Q21: How will I verify that my FCC Form 465 was successfully submitted and posted?

A21: The person listed as the contact on the FCC Form 465 will receive a confirmation by email verifying that the form was and is posted on the RHC website. The email confirmation will contain your allowable contract date and the date on which an agreement can be made with a service provider. In the event that you have no email address on file, a paper confirmation will be sent to the contact mailing address. You can also verify the posting by going to the "Search Postings" area of the RHC website.

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Q22: What happens if I forget my password?

A22: Go to the "E-certification" section of the RHC website and click on "Forgot My Password." You will be prompted for the verification answer you supplied when you enabled the e-certification. If the correct answer is provided, you will be shown your password.

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Q23: What happens when the e-certification is disabled?

A23: Disabling the e-certification removes the ability to sign and submit forms electronically. The password will remain in effect and simply function as a login password, allowing you access to the HCPs' area. You will be able to log in to the RHC site to check the status of your application, fill out forms online, or change the password; however, since the electronic certification is disabled, you will be required to print out and send in the forms by mail.

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Eligibility

Q24: Which HCPs are eligible to receive universal service benefits?

A24: Public or nonprofit HCPs are eligible to receive discounted telecommunications services. Eligible HCPs must also be located in a rural area and fit into one of the eligible categories determined by the FCC. Contact the Customer Service Support Center if you are unsure about eligibility.

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Q26: If a nonprofit health maintenance organization (HMO) has its headquarters in an urban area and is billed at that urban location, but has facilities in several rural areas, would the rural facilities be eligible for support?

A26: Yes. Each separate site or location of an HCP is considered an individual applicant and has its own HCP number for purposes of calculating support. Therefore, each facility located in a rural area would potentially be eligible to receive discounted services regardless of whether the headquarters is located in an urban area.

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Q27: What if a telecommunications network is used for multiple purposes, some of which are not related to the provision of health care services or instruction?

A27: Pursuant to Section 54.615(c)(4) of the FCC's rules, an HCP must certify that supported service will be used solely for purposes necessary for the provision of health care or health care instruction. Services that are used for purposes other than health care or health care instruction cannot be supported. This includes services that are used by an HCP for non-health care related purposes, or services that are shared with an entity that is ineligible for Rural Health Care (RHC) Program support, such as a school. library or for-profit hospital.

 

An HCP that uses a percentage of its services for non-health care related purposes may, however, still apply for support by designating on the FCC Form 466 the percentage of service(s) used for health care or health care instruction and the percentage of non-health care related services. RHC Program support would then be prorated for the eligible services. Likewise, HCPs that share services with an ineligible entity may still apply for RHC Program support. On the FCC Form 466, the HCP should designate its percentage of service(s) used and the percentage of service(s) used by the ineligible entity. RHC Program support would then be prorated for eligible services used by the HCP.

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Services Eligible for Discount

Q28: What services may be discounted for eligible HCPs?

A28: Any telecommunications service which is used primarily for the provision of health care. These telecommunications services include, but are not limited to:

  • ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode)
  • Centrex
  • DSL
  • Ethernet
  • Fiber
  • Fractional T1
  • Frame Relay
  • ISDN
  • Mileage-related Charges
  • MPLS
  • NRS – Network Reconfiguration Service
  • OC-1
  • OC-3
  • Redundant Circuit
  • Satellite Service
  • Telephone Service
  • T1
  • T3 or DS3

Special construction and maintenance charges are not eligible for support. Franchises, zone charges, and surcharges are not eligible for support. Taxes, as a percentage of the cost paid on a telecommunications service, are eligible for support.

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Q29: Are one-time or installation charges covered for eligible HCPs?

A29: Yes. For telecommunications services, if a difference exists between the charges for the same or similar services in the rural versus the urban location, and the rural is more costly, the difference is supported.

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Q30: What is meant by limited distance-based charges?

A30: Support is available for applicable distance-based charges (minus the Standard Urban Distance) for the distance between the rural HCP and the farthest point on the jurisdictional boundary of the largest city in the HCP's state. If an eligible rural HCP chooses to connect to a point beyond this Maximum Allowable Distance (MAD), it must pay the appropriate unsupported rate for any distance-based charges incurred beyond the MAD. There is no requirement, however, that the HCP choose service that connects to the largest city. The support that would have been available to the largest city may be applied to a service that connects to any other area, including in another state. Support is not available for long-distance per minute toll charges.

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Q31: Is there a maximum bandwidth for eligible telecommunications services?

A31: No. The FCC's Fifteenth Order on Reconsideration (CC Docket No. 96-45, FCC 99-269, 11/1/1999) eliminated the previous 1.544 Mbps (T-1) bandwidth limit for supportable services, beginning July 1, 2000.

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Q32: What Internet support is available?

A32: Beginning in January 2014, the Telecommunications Program only provides telecommunications services and support. Applicants currently receiving support for Internet access and new applicants can apply for support for Internet access services through the Healthcare Connect Fund (HCF) Program, the newest component of the Rural Health Care Program. The HCF Program will provide a 65 percent discount on eligible expenses related to broadband connectivity to both individual rural health care providers (HCPs) and consortia, which can include non-rural HCPs (if the consortium has a majority of rural sites).

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Q33: Is there a limit to the number of services for which an HCP may receive support?

A33: No. An eligible rural HCP may receive support for as many services as it can use for the provision of health care.

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Q34: Can connections between two rural sites be supported?

A34: Yes. An eligible rural HCP may elect to use a supported connection to link to a site in a rural area but is subject to the distance limitations discussed concerning the largest city in the HCPs' state.

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Applying for Supported Services

Q35: How does the application process work?

A35: For a detailed description, view the Process Overview description.

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Q36: Will eligible HCPs receive funds from USAC to cover the cost of eligible services ordered?

A36: No. Eligible HCPs will benefit from universal service support through a discount on telecommunications bills for eligible services.

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Q37: Must HCPs apply for supported services each year even if they enter into a multi-year contract for the provision of services?

A37: Yes. The FCC recognized that HCPs will often be able to negotiate better rates for multi-year contracts and encouraged HCPs to negotiate such contracts. However, since RHC can only commit funds to cover one year of the contract, HCPs must submit an application for each funding year.

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Q38: Are eligible HCPs permitted to resell the universal service supported services they receive?

A38: No. The 1996 Telecom Act states that eligible HCPs are prohibited from reselling supported telecommunications services for money or anything of value. This prohibition against resale does not, however, prohibit an HCP from charging normal fees for health care services, including instruction related to such services rendered via telecommunications purchased through the universal service mechanisms.

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Forms Assistance

Q39: What forms must be filed?

A39: Rural HCPs must file the following forms:

  • FCC Form 465 (Description of Services Requested and Certification Form): certifies that an HCP is eligible and lists which services are being requested;
  • FCC Form 466 (Funding Request and Certification Form): informs RHC of which service provider(s) and services the HCP selected and the appropriate tariff or contract pertaining to the service; and
  • FCC Form 467 (Connection Certification Form): informs RHC that the service provider has begun to provide services.

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Q40: How are these forms filed?

A40: FCC Forms (465, 466, and 467) can be completed electronically in My Portal.

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Calculating Support

Q41: How is support calculated?

A41: RHC's telecommunications services provide support for monthly mileage-based charges minus the Standard Urban Distance (SUD) or for the difference between the rural and urban rate for non-mileage based charges.

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Q42: How is the urban rate determined?

A42: The urban rate is the rate charged by a telecommunications carrier for the same or similar service offered in a city with a population of 50,000 or more in the HCP's state. The urban rate should have the same or similar terms and conditions as the rural rate. The urban rate is determined by the telecommunications carrier that provides the service in the urban area.

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Q43: If the tariffed rural rate changes during the funding year, will the support level change?

A43: Once a rural HCP informs RHC that it has an agreement for service (by filing the FCC Form 466), RHC will allocate support for that service for the duration of the funding year. If tariffed or contract rates decrease, the HCP must re-file the FCC Form 466 so RHC can reduce the support level accordingly. If the tariffed or contract rates increase during the year, the HCP may re-file the FCC Form 466 to reflect the new rate. Such parties will be allocated additional support only if universal service funds remain for allocation during the funding year. Otherwise, the original support amount will be continued for the remainder of the funding year.

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My Portal

Q44: Why do I have to register for the new system?

A44: In My Portal, access is provided to an individual (not the HCP), so USAC needs to verify and provide new User IDs and passwords to all authorized account holders.

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Q45: Why does USAC require proof that I'm authorized to access an HCP whose account I have been managing for years?

A45: My Portal allows an HCP to store account information year after year. USAC must ensure account holders are authorized to access an HCP's information, since some documents may contain sensitive information such as contracts or bills.

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Q46: I pre-registered and received my log in information by email. What do I do now?

A46: Click on My Portal and select "log in here." Type in your user ID (email address) and temporary password. You will be prompted to change your password. After changing your password, you will have to log in again using your new password, and then accept the terms and conditions regarding access to My Portal. An online tutorial for pre-registered users can be found in the Online Learning Library.

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Q47: Why won't the system let me use the new password that I am trying to enter?

A47: Your new password must be a minimum of six characters and include at least one non-alphanumeric character (i.e., !,@,#,$). Please note passwords are also case-sensitive.

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My Portal - Consultants

Q48: How are consultants registered for My Portal?

A48: In My Portal, consultants are registered as secondary account holders with full rights once they verify they are authorized to file forms on behalf of an HCP. They can do this by submitting documentation such as a Letter of Agency (LOA) or a contract. The signer of the LOA is registered as the primary account holder for the HCP unless they expressly request another employee of the HCP to act as the primary account holder (see question 50). Secondary account holders with full rights are considered consultants that can do anything a primary account holder can, such as certify, sign, and submit applications; but are unable to add, modify, delete, or otherwise manage account holder rights.

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Q49: Can the LOA signer replace themselves as primary account holder?

A49: Yes. The LOA signer can add additional secondary account holders and reassign their primary account holder rights to another employee of the HCP (or its parent organization) in My Portal by going to "My Account Settings." Consultants cannot be primary account holders. Simply enter the new account holder's information in the fields.

  1. Assign HCPs to the new account holder by selecting "Full Rights" or "Partial Rights" for each HCP from the list displayed under "Unassigned HCPs."
    1. Full rights give a secondary account holder the same capabilities as the primary account holder, with the exception that they may not add or modify additional account holders.
    2. Partial rights allow the secondary account holder to review all information pertaining to the associated HCP and to complete substantial portions of applications. However, they may not certify, sign, nor electronically submit forms for the HCP.
  2. Once you have provided the necessary information and selected the HCPs to assign the new account holder, click on the "Submit Request" button to submit the request.
  3. The new secondary account holder will receive an email notifying them of their access to My Portal and instructions on how to complete the registration process.
  4. Once they complete registration, the HCPs should all show in the account holders My HCPs tab.
  5. At any time prior to selecting "Submit Request," you may cancel your changes by clicking on the "Back to My Account Settings" button.

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Q50: What information is required to show evidence of a consultant's authority to act on behalf of an HCP?

A50: The contract, letter of agency/agreement, or other document should include the following information:

  • HCP name(s) and number(s), and
  • Name, title, and contact information of the person at the HCP granting authority to the consultant, (this person does not have to be the FCC Form 465 Block 1 contact). If the documents do not have the full contact information of the person at the HCP granting authority to the consultant, you can provide that to USAC separately.

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Q51: How does a consultant submit an LOA or other documentation proving that they are authorized to file forms on behalf of an HCP?

A51: Consultants can upload documents on the FCC Form 465 Block 6 Certification tab. If you do not submit documentation when you submit an FCC Form 465 for an HCP, you will receive an email with a document request link that can be used to upload the LOA. You will also be able to submit the LOA using a document request link under the "My Documents" tab.

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Q52: How can a consultant file for additional HCPs that are not listed under his/her "My HCPs" tab in My Portal?

A52: A consultant who is registered as an account holder for other HCPs can click on the "Add HCP" button in the "My HCPs" tab. Enter the zip code of the new HCP and if it shows up on the search results as an available, or new HCP, the consultant may submit an FCC Form 465 for that HCP.

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Q53: Can a consultant enable access to additional employees of the consulting firm?

A53: In most cases, yes. However, as secondary account holders, consultants do not have the ability to add new account holders. Consultants should contact the RHC Help Desk at (800) 453-1546 for assistance.

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