The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has opened the COVID-19 Telehealth Program Application portal and is now accepting applications for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program (the “Telehealth Program”). Authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), the Telehealth Program will provide $200 million in funding to assist eligible health care providers deliver telehealth services to patients in their homes or other mobile locations in an effort to combat the novel Coronavirus 2019 disease (“COVID-19”). The funding is available for eligible health care providers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by fully compensating providers for their telecommunication services, information services, and devices necessary for them to provide critical telehealth services. Notably, the Telehealth Program is not currently available to certain types of health care providers, including for-profit providers. Consequently, some providers, including local hospitals that are part of a larger for-profit health system, may find themselves ineligible for telehealth funding.
The financial assistance comes at a much-needed time for health care providers who are facing numerous challenges in delivering care amid the COVID-19 pandemic and implementing measures to slow the spread of the virus. Applications will be selected on a rolling basis until the funds are exhausted. Therefore, it is important for eligible providers to submit an application as soon as possible.
Eligible health care providers under the Telehealth Program are currently limited to those non-profit and public eligible health care providers who meet the definition of “health care provider” under 47 U.S.C. § 254(h)(7)(B), which includes:
- Post-secondary educational institutions offering health care instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools;
- Community health centers or health centers providing health care to migrants;
- Local health departments or agencies;
- Community mental health centers;
- Not-for-profit hospitals;
- Rural health clinics;
- Skilled nursing facilities (as defined in section 395i–3(a) of title 42); or
- Consortia of health care providers consisting of one or more entities described in items 1-7 above.
For purposes of the Telehealth Program, health clinics do not need to be located in a rural area, meaning both rural and non-rural health clinics are eligible to receive funding. While the FCC has limited provider eligibility to the categories set forth in § 254(h)(7)(B), the CARES Act does not require such a limitation. As a result of the FCC’s decision, many health care providers do not qualify for Telehealth Program funding. In an effort to expand access to the Program, the American Hospital Association has filed a petition with the FCC requesting the Commission reconsider the scope of eligible health care providers.
In addition to meeting the definitional requirements above, health care providers must obtain an eligibility determination for each site on the application from the Universal Service Administrative Company (“USAC”) by filing USAC Form 460. Providers may submit an application for the Telehealth Program while their USAC eligibility determination is pending. It is important to note that a provider’s entity type may have an impact on eligibility. For example, non-profit hospitals may include those non-profit hospitals with and without a 501(c)(3) determination letter. For more information on eligibility, please contact a member of our team.
B. COVID-19 Telehealth Program Application.
The COVID-19 Telehealth Program Application can be found at FCC Website. The FCC has also posted Filing Instructions and an Instructional Video for health care providers wishing to submit an application under the Program. The application can be submitted by completing each of the following:
- Download the COVID-19 Telehealth Program Application
- Complete the information requested in the form
- Save the form with the following filename: “FRN_ApplicantName_MMDDYYYY”
- Email the application and supporting information to: TelehealthApplicationSupport@fcc.gov
Applicants must register for an FRN in the Commission’s Registration System (“CORES”). Registration can be completed HERE. Once your account is activated, the FRN number can be used to complete the Telehealth Program application. There is no set deadline for the filing the Telehealth Program application. However, funding decisions will be made on a rolling basis and the Commission will continue to accept and review applications until the funding is exhausted or the current COVID-19 pandemic has ended. Additional resources for completing the application process are included below.
C. Eligible Costs.
Qualified providers are eligible to seek funding to purchase telecommunications services, information systems, and connected devices that are necessary to provide telehealth services to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. The FCC has provided a number of examples of eligible services and connected devices that are eligible for funding under the Telehealth Program:
- Telecommunications Services and Broadband Connectivity Services: Voice services for health care providers or their patients.
- Information Services: Internet connectivity services for health care provider or their patients; remote patient monitoring platforms and services; patient reported outcomes platforms; store-and-forward services, such as asynchronous transfer of patient images and data for physician interpretation; platforms and services to provide synchronous video consultation.
- Connective Devices/Equipment: Tablets, smart phones, or connected devices to receive care connected services at home (e.g., broadband-enabled blood pressure monitors; pulse oximetry monitors) for patient or health care provider use; telemedicine kiosks/carts for health care provider sites. Only devices that are inherently connected, such as pulse oximetry, blood pressure monitoring devices, etc., are eligible for funding under the Telehealth Program. Unconnected devices, e., those that patients may use at home and manually report results to their health care providers, are not eligible for funding.
Ineligible expenses include personnel, IT, administrative, training, and marketing costs. Eligible health care providers should take care to exclude any ineligible items from their funding applications. In addition, in order to receive Telehealth Program disbursements, eligible health care providers that are approved for funding will be required to submit invoicing information and supporting documentation of their eligible expenses.