– FCC new program would provide immediate support to healthcare facilities and patients across the country; separate connected care pilot program would study long-term role of telehealth.
– The $200 million Program would immediately support healthcare providers responding to the pandemic by providing eligible healthcare providers support to purchase telecommunications services, information services.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai today announced his plan for a COVID-19 Telehealth Program to support healthcare providers responding to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As part of the CARES Act, Congress appropriated $200 million to the FCC to support healthcare providers’ use of telehealth services in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Impact of COVID-19 Telehealth Program
If adopted by the Commission, the Program would help eligible healthcare providers purchase telecommunications, broadband connectivity, and devices necessary for providing telehealth services. These services would directly help COVID-19 patients and provide care to patients with other conditions who might risk contracting the coronavirus when visiting a healthcare provider—while reducing practitioners’ potential exposure to the virus.
“As we self-isolate and engage in social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth will continue to become more and more important across the country. Our nation’s healthcare providers are under incredible, and still increasing, strain as they fight the pandemic. My plan for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program is a critical tool to address this national emergency. I’m calling on my fellow Commissioners to vote promptly to adopt the draft order I circulated today, so that we can take immediate steps to provide support for telehealth services and devices to healthcare providers during this national crisis,” said Chairman Pai. “I’d like to thank Congress for acting with bipartisan decisiveness to allocate funding for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program and Commissioner Carr for his leadership on telehealth issues, including the Connected Care Pilot Program.”
COVID-19 Telehealth Program Overview
The $200 million COVID-19 Telehealth Program would immediately support healthcare providers responding to the pandemic by providing eligible healthcare providers support to purchase telecommunications services, information services, and devices necessary to enable the provision of telehealth services during this emergency period. It would provide selected applicants with full funding for these eligible telehealth services and devices. In order to receive funding, eligible healthcare providers would submit a streamlined application to the Commission for this program, and the Commission would award funds to selected applicants on a rolling basis until the funds are exhausted or until the current pandemic has ended.
Connected Care Pilot Program Overview
This three-year Pilot Program would provide universal service support to help defray healthcare providers’ qualifying costs of providing connected care services. It would target funding to eligible healthcare providers, with a primary focus on pilot projects that would primarily benefit low-income or veteran patients. The Pilot Program would make available up to $100 million, which would be separate from the budgets of the existing Universal Service Fund programs and the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. The Pilot Program would provide funding for selected pilot projects to cover 85% of the eligible costs of broadband connectivity, network equipment, and information services necessary to provide connected care services to the intended patient population. In order to participate, eligible healthcare providers would submit an application to the Commission for the Pilot Program, and the Commission would announce the selected pilot projects.