Last month the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released their proposed ruleto establish the Connected Care Pilot Program to support the development of telehealth services and delivery for low-income Americans, especially among rural and veteran populations. A Notice of Inquiry for comments on the program was originally made in July 2018. The FCC is proposing to adopt a $100 million budget, and would fund up to 20 connected care projects with a three-year funding period, though all costs of a pilot would not be fully funded by this program. The pilot would give health care providers the flexibility to determine health conditions and geographic areas that they would like to focus on. The program would be limited to only health conditions that typically require at least several months or more of treatment, such as behavioral health, opioid dependency, chronic health conditions and high risk pregnancies. The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on July 30, 2019 and comments are due August 29, 2019. FCC’s responses to public comments are expected on or before September 30, 2019.
Additionally, in July the FCC voted to adopt a Report and Order which indicates they will be reforming the way they distribute funding in the Rural Health Care Program, amidst growing demand and an effort to reduce inefficiencies and waste. A major component of the Rural Health Care Program involves subsidizing the cost of broadband services for rural participants. The FCC plans to prioritize its support through the program based on “rurality tiers” as well as if the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) designates the area as a medically underserved population, with those classified as “extremely rural” receiving the highest priority.