This article was updated July 7, 2020.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which was funded with $200 million through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is now closed to new applicants. As of June 25, 2020, 444 health care providers received a total of $160 million.
Other FCC funding opportunities exist that focus on deploying rural broadband health care capacity. The FCC’s former funding cap was approximately $600 million, and it recently added $198 million for the rural health care program. Other funding mechanisms exist to help health care providers respond to COVID-19, including CARES Act funding allocations from the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) public assistance, loans, and philanthropic support.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has emphasized telehealth funding to support virtual visits. Prior to the pandemic, the FCC established a pilot program to improve access to telehealth for low-income and rural patients. It’s a three-year, $100 million program that provides an 85% discount for telehealth services.
The program was open to eligible health care provider sites that treat patients, whether located in rural or non-rural areas or US territories, limited to:
- 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—for purposes of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which is authorized by the CARES Act, and not the 1996 Telecommunications Act, both rural and non-rural health clinics are eligible to receive funding
- Skilled nursing facilities
- Consortia of health care providers consisting of one or more entities falling into the first seven categories
Eligible Funding Purposes
Expenditures and services eligible for funding are those that are necessary to provide telehealth services to patients in response to the coronavirus pandemic, such as the following:
- Telecommunications services. Voice services, for health care providers or their patients.
- Information services. Internet connectivity services for health care providers or their patients; remote patient monitoring platforms and services; patient reported outcome platforms; store and forward services, such as asynchronous transfer of patient images and data for interpretation by a physician; platforms and services to provide synchronous video consultation.
- Connected Devices and equipment. Tablets, smart phones, or connected devices to receive connected care services at home, such as broadband-enabled blood pressure monitors or pulse oximetry monitors, for patient or health care provider use; or telemedicine kiosks or carts for health care provider sites.
UPDATE: As of June 25, 2020, new applications are no longer being accepted.
Interested health care providers must complete several steps to apply for funding through the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Applicants can take the following first four steps immediately to prepare for the application.
1. Obtain an eligibility determination from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) for each provider site by submitting FCC Form 460.
Providers that USAC has previously deemed eligible to participate in the Commission’s existing Rural Health Care Programs may rely on that eligibility determination for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program.
Applicants that don’t yet have an eligibility determination from USAC can file an application for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program while the FCC Form 460 is pending a response from USAC.
2. Obtain an FCC Registration Number (FRN) in the Commission Registration System.
An FRN is a 10-digit number that is assigned to a business or individual registering with the FCC.
Registration requires at a minimum, the Dun & Bradstreet number (DUNS). Additionally, you’ll need the bank routing and account numbers and type of account for receiving a direct deposit. An administrator who is authorized to bind the organization, and is familiar with the legal and financial history of the organization, should complete the registration.
This step can be completed before or after the funding application is submitted, but must be complete before a payment can be remitted by the FCC to an awardee.
SAM.gov estimates that it takes 10 days to complete the approval process.
Applications can be found on the FCC Telehealth program site. In addition, Frequently Asked Questions are available to support preparation of budgets and narratives. The following information is required to complete the application:
- Applicant information (organization)
- Contact information (individual)
- Health care provider information
- Requested funding items, including a narrative explanation of how items will be used
- Medical services to be provided
- Conditions to be treated with COVID-19 Telehealth Funding
- Additional information concerning requested services and devices, including objectives and how outcomes will be monitored
- Supporting documentation, including budgets or vendor invoices
Once approved for the FCC Telehealth Program, awardees must directly pay the vendor or service provider for the costs of the eligible services or connected devices received, then submit requests for reimbursement on at least a monthly basis to the FCC using the Invoice Processing Platform.
We’re Here to Help
For questions about additional funding opportunities or other cash flow strategies, contact your Moss Adams professional.
Special thanks to Georgia Green, Manager, and Scott Murphy, Staff, Health Care Practice, for their contributions to this article.
Note on COVID-19
During this unparalleled time, we’re closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation as it evolves so we can provide up-to-date guidance and support to help you combat uncertainty. For regulatory updates, strategies to help cope with subsequent risk, and possible steps to bolster your workforce and organization, please see the following resources: