Be aware of revised process for telemedicine Oklahoma Universal Service Funds (OUSF)

Posted on: 7/13/16

If you are applying for funding through the Oklahoma Universal Service Fund for the 2017 funding year, do not wait until the last minute to familiarize yourself with the completely changed process. Telemedicine funding recipients will be required to apply for federal USF funding as well this year in order to receive state funding through OUSF. OUSF Emergency Rules go into effect immediately and will be in effect until Sept. 17, 2017. There is one application for telemedicine funding, which will be available annually and will not change during the year. The application is being revised and should be available soon from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC).

HB 2616 passed during the 2016 legislative session to modernize the application process for Oklahoma Universal Service Funds. HB 2616 implements procedures to modernize the program for advances in technology that have occurred since 1997 when the OUSF was established, as well as ease the administrative burden, control costs, increase efficiency and transparency, and provide regulatory certainty. HB 2616 moves the fund from a litigation-based system to an administrative process, which is key to creating efficiency. Telemedicine will be funded by federal programs first and the remainder by the OUSF. The bill provides for approval of eligible services and credit amounts for the beneficiary before the telecommunication service begins.  Competitive bidding for services is now required by statute. All OUSF beneficiaries will now apply for federal funds first. Federal funds received by beneficiaries will continue to offset state costs of the OUSF.

On May 19, the OCC filed a Notice of Emergency Rulemaking to incorporate the new changes to statute into the OCC rules. OHA filed written comments and attended all meetings. After two industry workgroup meetings, two technical conferences and one hearing with all three commissioners present, all parties worked out language for implementation of the legislation prior to July 1. On July 8, the Emergency Rules were published by OCC and will go into effect immediately upon signature by the governor. If you receive funds for telemedicine through the OUSF or are applying for the first time, please familiarize yourself with the new process and new application that must be submitted.  (Sandra Harrison)

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