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FCC Seeks Comments on Round 2 Administration of COVID-19 Telehealth Program

Analysis  |  By Scott Mace  
   January 12, 2021

Almost $250 million will support providers, building on the initial program. Comments are due January 19.

Leaders of Round 2 of the Federal Communication Commission's COVID-19 Telehealth Program, newly boosted by $249.95 million of funding, wants your opinion.

The FCC will be considering a lot of applications for how to use this funding, bestowed by the Consolidated Appropriations Act , passed by the Congress in December and effective as of December 27.

In particular, the FCC wants input on the metrics the FCC will use to evaluate applications in this funding round.

After the COVID-19 pandemic began, the FCC established its COVID-19 Telehealth Program. The initial funding of $200 million, awarded to 539 applicants from 47 states plus Washington, D.C., and Guam, enabled telehealth and connected care services to patients at home or who may be in a mobile location, due to the pandemic.

"Telehealth has been a critical factor in helping us address the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to have a devastating impact on the health of the American people," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai as part of the Round 2 announcement.

Pai said the initial program has expanded access to telehealth services throughout the U.S., including to record numbers of remote patients who have received bilingual telehealth services from health clinics providing service to rural hospitals.

The initial funding was exhausted in July 2020, after the FCC had evaluated and awarded funding commitments on a rolling basis. Areas hardest hit by COVID-19 received top priority during that round.

The new public notice asks for public input on how to address applications that did not receive funding in the initial round. This input period will also address the definition of what comprises a hardest-hit area.

Comments are due by January 19, 2021. Comments can be filed in WC Docket No. 20-89 through the FCC's electronic filing system.

Scott Mace is a contributing writer for HealthLeaders.

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