Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai has announced a COVID-19 Telehealth Program, a $200 million relief program to help health care providers during the pandemic. The funding is part of the CARES Act, which has set aside the funding to immediately help health care providers use telehealth services to combat COVID-19.
The program “would help eligible health care providers purchase telecommunications, broadband connectivity, and devices necessary for providing telehealth services.” Further, this telehealth program helps coronavirus patients, healthcare providers, and those with other issues, who risk contracting the virus by visiting their provider for treatment. Providers must apply for this program; if eligible, this program will fully fund telehealth services. Funds will be allotted on a rolling basis until no funds are available or the pandemic has ended.
Chairman Pai has also provided the final rules for the Connected Care Pilot Program, which would investigate how “connected care could be a permanent part of the Universal Service Fund by making available up to $100 million from universal service support” over three years to help pay for qualifying healthcare providers’ costs of using telehealth services, especially those helping low-income Americans and veterans. This pilot program would provide funding for selected projects that cover 85 percent of costs for “broadband connectivity, network equipment, and information services necessary to provide connected care service to the intended population.”
“As we self-isolate and engage in social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth will continue to become more and more important across the country,” Chairman Pai said. “Our nation’s health care providers are under incredible, and still increasing, strain as they fight the pandemic. My plan for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program is a critical tool to address this national emergency.”
“I am grateful to Chairman Pai for his leadership in accelerating this important initiative and for fast-tracking a COVID-19 Telehealth Program,” Commissioner Brendan Carr said. “This decision will further strengthen the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and help Americans access high-quality healthcare without having to visit a hospital in person.”
The FCC must vote on the Commissioner’s proposal to adopt these initiatives.