Telehealth funding eligibility under the CARES Act
The CARES Act Includes $200 million for eligible health providers to ensure connected care services for their patients during the COVID-19 pandemic
Telehealth in the prehospital environment enables treat-and-refer or treat-in-place delivery models, while connecting patients to advanced levels of care in the field empowers EMS providers to provide the right level of intervention at the right time, and to transport patients to the best destination. In an EMS1 digital edition, “Care delivery in real-time: Implementing telehealth in EMS,” sponsored by Pulsara, learn implementation strategies from agencies successfully using telehealth in the field.
By EMS GrantsHelp Team
On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump. As a whole, the CARES Act provides over $2 trillion in economic relief in direct response to the Trump Administration’s commitment to protect the American people from the health and economic impacts of COVID-19.
The CARES Act provided funding in four core areas:
- Assistance for American workers and families. Through Economic Impact Payments and other means, the Treasury Department is ensuring that Americans receive fast and direct relief in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Assistance for small businesses. The Paycheck Protection Program is providing small businesses with the resources they need to maintain their payroll, hire back employees who may have been laid off, and cover applicable overhead.
- Preserving jobs for American industry. The CARES Act offers meaningful financial support to American businesses and job creators so they can better support employees and be prepared to get back to business as soon as possible. Special programs include the employee retention credit, pay tax deferral, payroll support, additional tax credits, and loan programs.
- Assistance for state and local governments. Through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, the CARES Act provides for payments to state, local and tribal governments navigating the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. In total, the CARES Act established the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund.
COVID-19 Telehealth Program
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted the $200 million COVID-19 Telehealth Program in response to the public health emergency brought about from the pandemic. Through the program, the FCC will oversee the distribution of the Congress-appropriated funds approved through the CARES Act.
The COVID-19 Telehealth Program will provide eligible and approved healthcare providers with the resources needed to ensure connected care services for their patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Awards will be provided to fully fund the purchase of telecommunications, information systems and connected devices necessary to provide telehealth services to patients.
Examples of eligible services and connected devices that the COVID-19 Telehealth Program will support include the following:
- Telecommunications services and broadband connectivity services. Voice services for healthcare providers or their patients
- Information systems. Internet connectivity services for healthcare providers or their patients; remote patient monitoring platforms and services; patient-reported outcome platforms; tore 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/equipment. Tablets, smartphones or connected devices to receive connected care services at home (e.g. broadband-enabled blood pressure monitors, pulse oximetry monitors for patient or healthcare provider use); or telemedicine kiosks/carts for healthcare provider sites
The COVID-19 Telehealth Program will only fund devices (e.g., pulse oximetry, blood pressure monitoring devices, and other medical devices) that are themselves connected to the telehealth. It will not fund unconnected devices that patients use, and self-report results to the doctor. Connected devices may use Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity, including devices that connect to a consumer’s phone with an app that transfers the data directly to the medical provider.
Telehealth funding determination
The FCC’s goal is to select applications that target areas that have been hardest hit by COVID-19 and where support will have the most impact on addressing healthcare needs. To accomplish this, the FCC, in coordination with the FCC’s Connect2Health Task Force, will evaluate all applications. Funding decisions will be made based on each applicant’s response to the following criteria:
- The conditions to be treated that will use the COVID-19 Telehealth Program funding
- The goals and objectives for use of the funded item to be used with COVID-19 Telehealth Program funding
- The timeline for deployment of the proposed service(s) or device(s) funded by the COVID-19 Telehealth Program
- The factors/metrics the applicant will use to help measure the impact of the services and devices funding by the COVID-19 Telehealth Program
- The geographic area and population served by the applicant, and whether the geographic area has been under any pre-existing strain (e.g., large underserved or low-income patient population; healthcare provider shortage; rural hospital closures/ limited broadband access and/or internet adoptions)
- The healthcare providers’ targeted goals of funding to serve high-risk and vulnerable patients
COVID-19 funding strategy
COVID-19 Telehealth Program is not a grant program. Rather, funding will be distributed through a reimbursement model. To receive disbursements, eligible healthcare providers that are approved for funding will submit an invoice form with supporting documentation of covered expenses in order to receive reimbursement. While the COVID-19 Telehealth Program does not have an established per-unit funding cap for eligible services or devices, the Commission does not anticipate awarding more than $1 million to a single applicant.
CARES Act telehealth funding eligibility
The COVID-19 Telehealth Program is available to eligible health providers in rural, non-rural, and U.S. territories. The Program is limited to nonprofit and public eligible healthcare providers that are recognized as allowable healthcare providers according to Section 254(h)(7)(B) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. These allowable healthcare providers include the following:
- Post-secondary educational institutions offering healthcare instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools
- Community health centers or health centers providing healthcare to migrants
- Local health departments or agencies
- Community mental health centers
- Not-for-profit hospitals
- Rural health clinics
- Skilled nursing facilities
- Consortia of healthcare providers consisting of one or more entities falling into the first seven categories
COVID-19 Telehealth Program approval process
Healthcare providers interested in applying for COVID-19 Telehealth Program funding must obtain an eligibility determination from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) for each healthcare provider site that they wish to include in their application. For any healthcare providers that do not already have an eligibility determination, the FCC Form 460 must be completed and submitted for approval.
Healthcare providers may submit for funding while their application is pending; however, no funding will be awarded until the applicant has been approved as an eligible healthcare provider.
The Wireline Competition Bureau began receiving application forms on Apr. 13, 2020. Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and awards will be made until the funding is exhausted or the COVID‑19 pandemic has ended.