Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Ajit Pai announced plans for a new $200 million telehealth program to support health care facilities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding for the program was included in the CARES Act signed into law by President Trump on March 27.
The Chairman has also presented his colleagues with a $100 million proposal to establish a broader, longer-term Connected Care Pilot Program.
If approved by Pai’s fellow commissioners, the FCC COVID-19 telehealth program would provide funding for eligible health care providers to buy telecommunications, broadband connectivity and devices necessary for providing telehealth services. The services would help enable patients to connect with health care providers via telecommunications, rather than making physical visits to offices, thereby helping mitigate patients’ and practitioners’ potential exposure to the virus.
“As we self-isolate and engage in social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth will continue to become more and more important across the country. Our nation’s health care providers are under incredible, and still increasing, strain as they fight the pandemic,” Pai said in a prepared statement “My plan for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program is a critical tool to address this national emergency. I’m calling on my fellow Commissioners to vote promptly to adopt the draft order I circulated today, so that we can take immediate steps to provide support for telehealth services and devices to health care providers during this national crisis.”
The Connected Care Pilot Program, which also requires full commission approval, would study how connected care could be a permanent part of the Universal Service Fund by making available up to $100 million of USF support over three years to help defray eligible health care providers’ costs of providing telehealth services to patients at their homes or mobile locations, with an emphasis on providing those services to low-income Americans and veterans.