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New Connectivity Programs Support Health Care Providers and Patients New Connectivity Programs Support Health Care Providers and Patients

New Connectivity Programs Support Health Care Providers and Patients

On April 2, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a $200 million telehealth program to support health care providers responding to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Congress approved the funds as part of the CARES Act. The FCC also adopted final rules to stand up a Connected Care Pilot Program. This separate three-year pilot program will provide up to $100 million of support from the Universal Service Fund (USF) to help defray health care providers’ costs of providing connected care services and to help assess how the USF can be used in the long-term to support telehealth.

Both the COVID-19 Telehealth Program and Connected Care Pilot Program are limited to nonprofit and public health care providers that fall within the categories of health care providers in section 254(h)(7)(B) of the 1996 Telecommunications Act: (1) post-secondary educational institutions offering health care instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools; (2) community health centers or health centers providing health care to migrants; (3) local health departments or agencies; (4) community mental health centers; (5) not-for-profit hospitals; (6) rural health clinics; (7) skilled nursing facilities; or (8) consortia of health care providers consisting of one or more entities falling into the first seven categories. If they don't already have it, applicants will need an eligibility determination from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC); however, applications for the programs can be submitted while the eligibility determination is pending.

The COVID-19 Telehealth Program grants will be made available to eligible hospitals and other health centers, rural and non-rural. Applicants will be able to apply for up to $1 million to cover the cost of telecommunications, information services, and connected devices to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus. Funds will be available on a rolling basis until the $200 million program allocation is exhausted or the pandemic ends, whichever occurs first. Funds will be targeted to areas that have been hit the hardest by the virus, but not to specific geographies, types of medical condition, patient classification, etc. (although applicants are encouraged to target vulnerable and high-risk populations). Application materials and submission requirements are included in the Commission's Order.

The $100 million Connected Care Pilot Program seeks to provide three years of funding to eligible hospitals and other health centers, rural and non-rural, to cover 85% of the eligible costs of pilot projects to provide connected care through the use of broadband services and network equipment, primarily to low-income or veteran patients. The FCC further has a strong preference for health care providers that have either: (1) experience with providing telehealth or connected care services to patients (e.g., remote patient monitoring, store-and-forward imaging, or video conferencing) beyond using electronic health records; or (2) a partnership with another health care provider, government agency, or designated telehealth resource enter with such experience that will work with the health care provider to implement its proposed pilot. The FCC does not limit the number of pilot projects it will fund, nor the amount of funding that can be requested per project. Specifics regarding the broadband connection, network equipment, application materials and submission requirements are included in the above Order.

For more information about broadband connectivity, please contact Lindsay Miller. For more information about health care, please contact Taryn Stone. For additional resources and information regarding the coronavirus, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Center.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader’s specific circumstances.
 
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