Telehealth Program to Award Another $250M to Providers

Telemedicine

Late last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a report and order to set up a second round of funding to the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. It will provide nearly $250 million to support efforts by healthcare providers to address coronavirus by providing telecommunications services, information services, and devices needed to enable the provision of telehealth services” during the pandemic.

The application window for the funding is expected to open within 30 days. The FCC said it will provide notice in advance.

In a news release, the FCC noted that this past year “has proven, without a doubt, that telehealth technology is critical to helping address inequities in access to health care services,” and that the FCC is prepared to address the need.

Last April, the FCC created the program to administer $200 million in funding under the CARES Act. The initial round of funding was geared toward providing immediate assistance to eligible healthcare providers to provide telehealth and connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations.

The FCC directed the Wireline Competition Bureau to evaluate applications on a rolling basis and to prioritize applications that targeted the areas hit hardest by COVID-19 and where the funding would have the most impact on addressing healthcare needs.

The FCC issued awards to 539 applicants from April 16, 2020 through July 8, 2020.

This new round of funding was approved by Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 which was signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020.

In addition to $249.95 million in new funds, the Consolidated Appropriations Act requires the FCC to consider several changes to the program and to make several others.

  • First, it directs the FCC to seek comment on the “metrics the commission should use to evaluate applications for funding” and “how the commission should treat applications filed during the funding rounds for awards from the program using amounts appropriated under the CARES Act
  • Second, it instructs the FCC, to the extent feasible, to ensure that at least one applicant from all 50 states and the District of Columbia is awarded funds during either of the program’s funding rounds.
  • Third, the Act directs the FCC to allow applicants from Round 1 the opportunity to update or amend their applications.
  • Fourth, it directs the FCC to the extent feasible, to provide applicants, upon request, information on the status of their application and a rationale for the final funding decision.
  • Fifth, it requires that the FCC “issue notice to the applicant of the intent to deny the application and the grounds for that decision” and “provide the applicant with 10 days to submit any supplementary information that the applicant determines relevant, which must be taken into account for the final funding decisions.

During Round 1, funding was reviewed and awarded on a rolling basis. While this allowed applicants to get funding more quickly, those who applied later, especially smaller providers with limited resources, were left out after funding ran out.

During Round 2, a filing window within a specific time frame will allow for a more equitable selection process. That window will be announced two weeks before it is opened. Applicants that did not receive funding during the first round will need to file a new application. Those who did receive funding during the first round, are eligible to apply again but are subject to a cap of $1 million.

The full report can be found here.

The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale can assist you with applying for funding. The firm also can assist with matters relating to compliance with Medicare telemedicine rules and regulations.  For more information, call us at 305-358-4500 or email info@vitalehealthlaw.com

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