FCC Adopts COVID-19 Telehealth Program, Connected Care Pilot Program

On Thursday, April 2, 2020, the Commission released the Report and Order (“Order”) in the Promoting Telehealth for Low-Income Consumers and COVID-19 Telehealth Program proceedings, establishing a COVID-19 Telehealth Program (“COVID Program”) and a Connected Care Pilot Program (“Pilot Program”) (WC Docket Nos. 18-213, 20-89). The Commission adopts the COVID Program in response to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020, which provides $200 million to the FCC to support health care providers in the ongoing pandemic. The Pilot Program is adopted within the Universal Service Fund and will make available up to $100 million over three years to help eligible health care providers maximize their connected care services during the pandemic, particularly to low-income Americans and veterans.

The COVID Program will be open to eligible health care providers, whether located in rural or non-rural areas, and will provide eligible health care providers support to purchase telecommunications, information services, and connected devices to provide connected care services in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID Program will provide selected applicants full funding for eligible services and devices from the $200 million budget, based on the estimated costs of any necessary supported services and connected devices the applicants intend to purchase. The Commission will begin accepting applications for the COVID Program immediately after the publication of this Order and notice of OMB approval of the COVID Program information collection requirements in the Federal Register. The Wireline Competition Bureau is also directed to review the COVID Program applications, select participants, and make funding available on a rolling basis until the funding is exhausted or until the current pandemic has ended.

The Pilot Program is a separate, limited duration program that will provide universal service support to help offset health care providers’ qualifying costs of providing connected care services, with a primary focus on providing these services to low-income or certain patients most likely to need USF support. The Pilot Program will make available up to $100 million over a three-year funding period and will be separate from the budgets of the existing universal service programs. It will provide funding for selected pilot projects to cover 85% of the eligible costs of broadband connectivity, network, equipment, and information services necessary to provide services to the intended patient population. Health care providers must submit an application to the Commission describing its pilot project and how it will be used to serve these health care needs. The deadline for filing applications for the Pilot Program will be 45 days from the effective date of the Pilot Program Rules or 120 days from the release date of this Order (Friday, July 31, 2020), whichever is later. The Commission will then review applications and announce the selected pilot programs.

The Order will be effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, with the exception of those portions related to the COVID Program, which will become effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register and notice of OMB approval of the information collection requirements in the Federal Register. The Pilot Program information collection requirements will be effective after the announcement of OMB approval in the Federal Register.

The Order outlines the specifics of each program and details the application processes for eligible participants.

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