FCC Approves $200 Million COVID-19 Telehealth Program

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At the same time as the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) adopted final rules to establish a multi-year telehealth pilot program entitled the “Connected Care Pilot Program,” the commission released a Report and Order, detailing how eligible health care providers can participate in a $200 million COVID-19 Telehealth Program using funds appropriated by Congress as a part of the CARES Act. Successful applicants in the COVID-19 Telehealth Program could receive up to $1 million to subsidize purchasing telecommunications, broadband access, and connected monitoring devices (e.g. digitally connected pulse-ox and BP monitoring devices) necessary to provide connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In unveiling the COVID-19 Telehealth Program, the FCC cited the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (“CMS”) recent relaxation of restrictions on the use of telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries in light of COVID-19, and the Department of Health and Human Services’ (“HHS”) announcement that it would not enforce penalties against providers who use telehealth in good faith and inadvertently fail to comply with HIPAA regulations.

The FCC indicated that funding priority will be targeted in areas hit hard by COVID-19, as well as chronically underfunded clinical settings. To be eligible to apply for COVID-19 Telehealth Program funding, non-profit or public health care providers must fall within one of the following eight categories: (1) Not-for-profit hospitals; (2) Post-secondary educational institutions; (3) Community health centers or mental health centers; (4) Local health departments or agencies; (5) Community mental health centers; (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.

The FCC has streamlined the application process for these funds and will accept applications on a rolling basis until either the $200 million COVID-19 Telehealth Program funds have been committed or the current COVID‑19 pandemic has ended. Applications will open once the FCC receives final approval for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program’s data collection requirements from the Office of Management and Budget. In the meantime, interested parties may wish to review the application requirements and contact their counsel for additional information on applying for the funds made available through this program.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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