COVID-19 Telehealth Program

Program Highlights

  • The COVID-19 Telehealth Program, a $200 million telehealth program is separate from the broader Connected Care Pilot Program and is intended to provide support to healthcare providers responding to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.[1]
  • Funds for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program were appropriated by Congress through the CARES Act and will not rely on USF support.[2] These funds will be available until depleted or until the current pandemic has ended, and applicants may request additional support after exhausting their initial award.[3] Applicants may also later apply for support under the broader Connected Care Pilot Program, but may not request funding for the same exact services from both programs.[4]
  • Eligible applicants include nonprofit and public eligible health care providers, and specifically: (1) post-secondary educational institutions offering health care instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools; (2) community health centers or health centers providing health care to migrants; (3) local health departments or agencies; (4) community mental health centers; (5) not-for-profit hospitals; (6) rural health clinics; (7) skilled nursing facilities; and (8) consortia of health care providers consisting of one or more entities falling into the first seven categories.[5]
  • The COVID-19 Telehealth Program will fund the full costs of eligible telecommunications services, information services, and devices necessary to enable the provision of telehealth services, on a temporary basis.
  • Unlike the RHC program, the COVID-19 Telehealth Program will fund monitoring devices (such as pulse-ox and BP monitoring devices) that are themselves connected. However, unconnected devices that patients can use at home are not eligible for support.[6]  Applicants may purchase any necessary eligible services and connected devices and are not limited to those identified in their applications.[7]
  • No competitive bidding process is required, and the RHC gift rules do not apply.
  • HCPs must retain records for three years from the last date of service under the program. The COVID-19 Telehealth Program information collection requirements became effective Thursday, April 9th, 2020; the date of publication in the Federal Register.
  • Selected HCPs must submit a report on the effectiveness of the program, with details to be determined later by the Commission.
  • Funding priority for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program will be given to health care providers in areas that have been hardest hit by COVID-19 and where the support will have the most impact.[8]
  • Applicants are encouraged to target funding to “high-risk and vulnerable patients to the extent practicable.”[9] Although applicants may use the program to treat patients that have COVID-19, the program is not limited to treating only those patients as long as funds are used “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.”[10]  The Commission broadly defined this, stating treating non-COVID-19 patients could free up other resources or allow HCPs to treat patients remotely, thereby reducing their exposure.
  • On Friday, April 10th, the Wireline Competition Bureau announced that it will begin accepting applications for the $200 million COVID-19 Telehealth Program on Monday, April 13, 2020 at 12:00 PM ET through a dedicated application portal available at fcc.gov/covid19telehealth.
To assist applicants with the application process, the Bureau has posted a training video. The Bureau also released a Public Notice detailing actions that interested health care providers (HCPs) can take in preparation for filing an application for COVID-19 Telehealth Program funding. These steps include:
  1. Obtain an eligibility determination from USAC
  2. Obtain an FCC Registration Number (FRN)
  3. Register with System for Award Management
  4. Gather Required Information for Application
For more details about the application process, review paragraphs 23 through 27 of the Report and Order.

[1] For more information about the COVID-19 Telehealth Program, see Report and Order at paras. 15-36.

[2] Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Pub. L. No 116-136, 134 Stat. 281 (2020).

[3] Report and Order at paras. 17, 28.

[4] Report and Order at para. 28.

[5] Report and Order at 20; id. at paras. 20-22 (eligible health care providers).

[6] Report and Order at para. 16

[7] Report and Order at para. 17.

[8] Report and Order at para. 28.

[9] Report and Order at para. 1

[10] Report and Order at para. 19.