FCC COVID-19 Telehealth Program and Connected Care Pilot Program: Funding to Assist Health Care Providers and Patients

Updated July 8, 2020
FCC COVID-19 Telehealth Program and Connected Care Pilot
Program: Funding to Assist Health Care Providers and Patients

Overview of the COVID-19
Health care providers are leveraging telehealth, which
Telehealth Program
generally refers to a health care provider’s use of
The COVID-19 Telehealth Program is a temporary funding
information and communication technology to provide a
program that supports health care providers with purchasing
health care service, to meet patients’ health care needs
telecommunication services, information services, and
during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
connected devices to combat the pandemic. The overall
pandemic. However, some providers do not have the
goal of the program is to help health care providers reach
infrastructure to offer, nor do some patients have the
their patients and to complement the Department of Health
broadband access or connected devices to access, telehealth
and Human Services’ (HHS’s) temporary expansion of
services. To address these gaps, the Federal
telehealth. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic
Communications Commission (FCC) is administering the
Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136) authorizes this
COVID-19 Telehealth Program and the Connected Care
Pilot Program. The goal of both programs is to assist health
care providers with providing connected care services,
The CARES Act, among other things, authorized an
which the FCC refers to as “a subset of telehealth that uses
appropriation of $200 million for FCC to prevent, prepare
broadband internet access service-enabled technologies to
for, and respond to coronavirus. Using the appropriation,
deliver remote medical, diagnostic, patient-centered, and
the FCC established the COVID-19 Telehealth Program.
treatment-related services directly to patients outside of
Program funds are to remain available until expended or
traditional brick and mortar medical facilities—including
until the current pandemic ends.
specifically to patients at their mobile location or residence”
Program Funds Expended
On April 13, 2020, the Wireline Competition Bureau (the
The FCC is an independent federal regulatory agency
Bureau), the organization responsible for the selection of
charged with regulating interstate and international
awardees and distribution of funding, started accepting
communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and
applications. By June 24, 2020, according to the Bureau,
cable. On April 2, 2020, the FCC released the Report and
the COVID-19 Telehealth Program had approved over 400
Order on both programs (https://go.usa.gov/xv79v), which
applications, for a total of $157.64 million in funding
was subsequently published on April 9, 2020, as a final rule
(https://go.usa.gov/xfaca). On June 25, 2020, the Bureau
in the Federal Register (https://go.usa.gov/xvGGe). This In
announced it was no longer accepting applications because
Focus provides an overview of both programs.
the demand for funding exceeded available funds. The
maximum award amount was $1 million
Eligible Applicants for the COVID-19 Telehealth
(https://go.usa.gov/xfaxb). The Bureau will use remaining
Program and the Connected Care Pilot Program
funds to fund selected qualifying costs in applications
submitted before the close date.
Under both programs, eligible applicants are limited to the
nonprofit and public health care providers codified in
Qualifying Costs
Section 254(h)(7)(B) of the Communications Act of 1934,
Health care providers requested funding for
as amended: (1) post-secondary educational institutions
telecommunication and broadband connectivity services,
offering health care instruction, teaching hospitals, and
information services, and connected devices and equipment.
medical schools; (2) community health centers or health
centers providing health care to migrants; (3) local health
Telecommunication and broadband connectivity
departments or agencies; (4) community mental health
services include voice services for health care
centers; (5) not-for-profit hospitals; (6) rural health clinics;
providers and their patients.
(7) skilled nursing facilities; and (8) consortia of health care
providers consisting of one or more entities falling into the
Information services include internet connectivity
first seven categories. Eligible health care providers may be
services for health care providers and their patients,
located in rural and nonrural areas. Each health care
asynchronous store-and-forward and synchronous live
provider must have an eligibility determination from the
video platforms, and patient reported outcome
Universal Service Administration Company (USAC),
which is an independent not-for-profit corporation that
Connected devices and equipment include tablets,
administers universal service funds, to receive funding.
smartphones, kiosks, and carts at health care provider
sites, and broadband-enabled medical devices that

FCC COVID-19 Telehealth Program and Connected Care Pilot Program: Funding to Assist Health Care Providers and
patients can take home, such as blood pressure
Patient broadband internet access services consist of
monitors and pulse oximetry monitors. The medical
mobile or fixed broadband internet access services for
devices for patients must attach to their bodies and
participants who do not currently have or who lack
transmit results directly to health care providers.
sufficient broadband internet access.
Report to the FCC
Health care provider broadband data connections
Health care providers are required to submit a report to the
consist of data connections between provider and
FCC on program outcomes six months after the COVID-19
patient, not from one health care provider to another
Telehealth Program ends.
provider. Broadband data connections currently funded
through the Healthcare Connect Fund Program are not
Overview of the Connected Care
qualifying costs.
Pilot Program
The Connected Care Pilot Program is a three-year funding
Other connected care information services consist of
program that supports health care providers with purchasing
services that health care providers use to provide
infrastructure for themselves and their patients, particularly
connected care services other than broadband
eligible low-income individuals and eligible veterans. The
connectivity. Information services are not enumerated
program aims to help health care providers improve health
because the FCC does not want to unintentionally
outcomes and reduce health care costs for patients, health
exclude information services that the FCC has the
care facilities, and health care systems. The goal of the pilot
authority to and may seek to include as an eligible
program is to gain data on and examine how the Universal
service. However, the program will not fund medical
Service Fund (USF) can be useful in supporting the
professional review of data and images (transmitted or
advancement of connected care initiatives through pilot
stored) or services that are not designed to capture,
projects. USF provides ongoing subsidies to keep the
transmit, and store data with the goal of facilitating
operation of telecommunications and broadband networks
connected care services.
in high-cost areas economically viable for providers. Pilot
projects are to primarily focus on public health epidemics,
Certain network equipment consists of network
opioid dependency, mental health conditions, high-risk
equipment that is necessary to provide connected care
pregnancies, and chronic or reoccurring medical conditions.
services such as routers and servers. Award recipients
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-104, as
may not apply for or receive funding for network
amended) authorizes the Connected Care Pilot Program.
equipment through any other federal program.
Recipients may not use USF funds to purchase end-user
Eligible Low-Income Individuals and Veteran
devices and medical equipment.
An eligible low-income individual, for the purpose of this
Health care providers have up to six months from the date
program, must either (1) be eligible to receive Medicaid
of their initial funding commitment letter to organize and
assistance or (2) have a household income that is at or
implement their pilot projects. During the administration of
below 135% of the HHS federal poverty guidelines
their projects, health care providers must notify FCC within
(https://go.usa.gov/xvG62). For calendar year 2020, the
30 days of any material change such as the closure of a
poverty guideline for an individual is $12,760 for the 48
health care provider site or the termination of a pilot
contiguous states and the District of Columbia, $15,950 for
project. Health care providers are to have up to six months
Alaska, and $14,680 for Hawaii. An eligible veteran, for
after the funding end date to close out their pilot projects.
the purpose of this program, is a person, regardless of
income level, who is eligible to receive health care services
through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The FCC is making available $100 million over a three-
year period from general USF monies to administer and
fund the Connected Care Pilot Program. The program
Preference is given to health care providers that are
provides funding to help subsidize (up to 85% of)
experienced in providing telehealth services or participate
qualifying costs of providing connected care services. There
in a network that assists providers with implementing their
is a cost-matching requirement of 15% that must be met
pilot projects such as a Regional Telehealth Resource
with nonfederal funds. There is no set limit on award
Center. Applicants must demonstrate that their proposed
amounts per pilot project. Health care providers who have
projects will address the connected care service needs of a
exhausted their funds can apply for additional funds.
high percentage of low-income individuals and veterans
within their participant populations. Health care providers
Report to the FCC
that receive funding must notify the USAC within 30 days
Health care providers must submit a report to the FCC on
of when their participating patient population decreases by
program outcomes, within six months of the end dates of
5% or more.
their pilot projects.
Qualifying Costs
Victoria L. Elliott, Analyst in Health Policy
Health care providers can request funding for patient
broadband internet access services, health care provider
broadband data connections, other connected care
information services, and certain network equipment.

FCC COVID-19 Telehealth Program and Connected Care Pilot Program: Funding to Assist Health Care Providers and

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