The Federal Communications Commission on Jan. 6 called for comment on how the agency should proceed with deploying $249.9 million of new funding to support its existing COVID-19 Telehealth Program.
The FCC established the program in April 2020, and maxed out its $200 million of available funding for the program by July of last year. That money was committed to 539 funding applications from 47 states, Washington, D.C., and Guam. The funding helps healthcare providers offer telehealth and connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations.
The latest injection of funding for the program comes from the COVID-19 relief legislation approved by Congress in December.
The FCC’s call for comment seeks input on metrics that the agency should use to evaluate new funding applications, and how it should treat applications that were filed during the initial program disbursements last year.
“We have already seen the program’s positive impact on expanding access to telehealth services across the country, from health clinics providing bi-lingual telehealth services to rural hospitals connecting with record numbers of remote patients,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
“I’m pleased that this new support from Congress will enable us to extend this program into 2021. I am confident that our team at the Commission will work expeditiously to provide additional support for telehealth services through Round 2 of the program,” the agency chairman said.
Among other questions, the FCC is seeking comment on: whether the new funding should target “hardest hit” areas of the United States; whether it should consider “pre-existing strain” on healthcare providers; whether it should maintain the $1 million per applicant funding limit that it employed in the initial round of funding last year; and how it should address applications by statewide entities, large healthcare providers, or healthcare provider systems that have numerous sites.
Comments are due to the FCC by Jan. 19.