FCC Moving Fast to Initiate COVID-19 Telehealth Program: $200 Million in Additional Telehealth Infrastructure Funding for Certain Entities Including Health Centers

By , , | Published On: April 10, 2020

Though it is not at the forefront of national coverage, there is an important program for telehealth infrastructure support within the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act.[1]  With public and private nonprofit community health care providers turning heavily to telehealth to deliver needed services to their patients, Congress provided $200 million additional support to the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) to:

[P]revent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus . . . including to support efforts of health care providers to address coronavirus by providing telecommunications services information services, and devices necessary to enable the provision of telehealth services during an emergency period, as defined [under section 1135 of the Social Security Act].[2]

The FCC has moved quickly to establish a new telehealth funding program, called the “COVID-19 Telehealth Program.”  The program is described thoroughly in an April 2, 2020 FCC Report and Order as well as an April 9, 2020 Federal Register notice.

The program will be available to rural and non-rural:

  • Community Health Centers
  • Rural Health Clinics
  • Community Mental Health Centers
  • Local health departments
  • Not-for-profit Hospitals
  • Teaching hospitals
  • Medical schools
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • Post-secondary Educational Institutions offering health care instruction
  • Consortia comprised of the above types of entities[3]

The COVID-19 Telehealth Program funds will support “[acquisition of] telecommunications, information services, and connected devices to provide connected care services in response to the coronavirus pandemic.”  However, funded monitoring devices will be limited to “connected devices” such a connected pulse-ox and BP monitoring devices.[4]

Initial awards will be capped at $1 million, though follow-on applications for additional funding may be considered.[5]

Grant awards will be administered by the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (the “Bureau”), which is to create an online application process.  Specific guidance on applying for COVID-19 Telehealth Program funding is available through an April 8, 2020 Public Notice posted on the Bureau’s website at: https://www.fcc.gov/document/guidance-covid-19-telehealth-program-application-process.

For questions on telehealth matters, including billing and payment, privacy laws, and health center program specific considerations, please contact FTLF Partners Susannah Vance Gopalan at sgopalan@ftlf.com and Carrie Bill Riley at criley@ftlf.com.  For questions related to federal grant management and acquisition of information technology with federal funds, you may contact FTLF Partner Scott S. Sheffler at ssheffler@ftlf.com.

Please also see FTLF’s other information materials in these areas here.

[1] Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act, Pub. L. No. 116-136 (Mar. 27, 2020).

[2] CARES Act, Div. B, Tit. V.

[3] Federal Communication Commission (“FCC”) Report and Order In the Matter of Promoting Telehealth for Low-Income Consumers at 13 (Apr. 2, 2020); 85 Fed. Reg. 19894 (Apr. 9, 2020).

[4] FCC Report and Order at 11; 85 Fed. Reg. 19893 (Apr. 9, 2020).

[5] FCC Report and Order at 12; 85 Fed. Reg. 19893 (Apr. 9, 2020).