Last week, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on a proposed three-year, $100 million Connected Care Pilot program to improve health care using telehealth services. Under the pilot program, health care providers will team up with internet service providers to enable patients to access health care services through telehealth when they cannot access a health care provider’s physical location.
As proposed, the program will provide funding to eligible health care providers to purchase broadband internet access services that would be provided to the patient through a connected care offering, or universal service funds that the health care provider would use to purchase telehealth services that qualify as information services (the pilot program falls under the USF’s Healthcare Connect Fund). The Commission proposes requiring participating health care providers to conduct a competitive bidding process to select the most cost-effective service provider. The FCC proposes not to limit the pilot program to only ETCs.
While non-profit or public health care providers in urban and rural areas both will be eligible to apply for the program, additional points will be awarded to projects that would serve areas or populations where there are well-documented health care disparities such as Tribal lands, rural areas, veteran populations, or areas that treat certain health crises or chronic conditions that significantly impact many Americans and are documented to benefit from connected care. Specifically, extra points will be awarded to proposals that meet any of the following criteria:
- the health care provider is located in a rural area;
- the project would primarily serve patients who reside in rural areas;
- the project would serve patients located in five or more Health Professional Shortage areas or Medically Underserved Areas as designated by Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) by geography;
- the health care provider is located on Tribal lands, is affiliated with a Tribe, or is part of the Indian Health Service; or
- the health care provider would primarily serve patients who are veterans.
The FCC seeks comments on the proposed pilot program described above, as well as a number of proposed details regarding how the program should be designed and carried out. Comments will be due 30 days after the NPRM appears in the Federal Register.
If you provide service in any of the types of locations listed above, JSI recommends that you submit comments if there is an eligible health care provider located within your service area that may apply for funding through the proposed program.
JSI is available to assist with learning more information about the proposed pilot program and submitting comments. For questions about the Connected Care Pilot Program, please contact Chresanthe Staurulakis, Cassandra Heyne, or John Kuykendall in the Maryland office at 301-459-7590. If you’d like a summary of the pilot program and receive updates about the program as it progresses, please email Chresanthe Staurulakis.