FCC Approves Final Tranche Of Telehealth Expansion Funds
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Law360 (July 8, 2020, 5:21 PM EDT) — The Federal Communications Commissionsigned off on 25 funding applications for federal telehealth funding on Wednesday, allocating the remaining dollars of a $200 million set-aside from Congress to fund the expansion of remote medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The final $10.73 million disbursement will go to companies nationwide, ranging from a Chicago medical center to a Delaware family clinic, according to the FCC. Lawmakers approved the fund this spring as part of the wide-ranging coronavirus rescue package, as the FCC also works on a longer-term, $100 million telehealth initiative.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai gave accolades to the agency staff who developed the emergency telehealth program “from scratch” and determined in only a few months which projects most needed federal help.
Wednesday’s move brought the total of approved applications to 539, he said, including projects located in 47 states plus the District of Columbia and Guam. The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau runs the program.
“This final tranche of approved funding applications includes recipients in both urban and rural areas of the country, and from coast to coast,” Pai said in a statement. “We have already seen the program’s positive impact on expanding access to telehealth services and promoting the well-being of patients and health care providers across the country.”
FCC officials said in a March 30 call with reportersthat they hoped to distribute the fund, allocated through the coronavirus relief package, within a month. Not-for-profit and teaching hospitals were eligible for the funding, as well as clinics and local health agencies, while for-profit hospitals were ineligible.
Unlike FCC programs under the Universal Service Fund, the $200 million appropriated through the relief package could be spent on both broadband connections for patients and at-home devices that assist with monitoring programs.
On March 31 — the same day it approved the coronavirus relief package’s telehealth rollout — the FCC adopted final rules to stand up a Connected Care Pilot Program. That separate three-year pilot program will provide up to $100 million of support from the Universal Service Fund to “help defray health care providers’ costs of providing connected care services and to help assess how the USF can be used in the long-term to support telehealth,” the FCC said at the time.
Among the 25 applicants that won the coronavirus relief package’s telehealth funds on Wednesday are: Alivio Medical Center in Chicago; AltaPointe Health Systems in Mobile, Alabama; Cambridge Hospital in Massachusetts; Charleston Area Medical Centerin West Virginia; CHI St. Alexius Healthin Dickinson, North Dakota; Community Health Centers of Benton in Corvallis, Oregon; Comprehensive Mental Health Center in Tacoma, Washington; MultiCare Medical Associates in Tacoma, Washington; Crook County Medical Services District in Sundance, Wyoming; Family Centers Health Care in Greenwich, Connecticut; Medstar Health in Hyattsville, Maryland; and Guam Community Health Center in Dededo, Guam.
California recipients include California Telehealth Network in Sacramento, Community Medical Wellness Centers in Long Beach, and Comprehensive Community Health Centers in Glendale.
Recipients also include New York Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor, New York; North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, Mississippi; North Penn Comprehensive Health in Mansfield, Pennsylvania; OCHIN in Portland, Oregon; Recovery Consultants of Atlanta in Decatur, Georgia; Spanish Peaks Behavioral Health Centers in Pueblo, Colorado; St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota; Texas A&M Health Family Clinic in Bryan, Texas; Thundermist Health Centerin Warwick, Rhode Island; and Westside Family Healthcare in Wilmington, Delaware.
–Additional reporting by Kelcee Griffis. Editing by Nicole Bleier.
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