FCC exceeds $ 100 million CARES telehealth funding approvals as House seeks more control

• The Federal Communications Commission has donated nearly $ 105 million to 305 nonprofit and public healthcare workers to build its telemedicine infrastructure in 42 states and Washington, DC after the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency announced.

• This is the 10th round of FCC funding for the COVID-19 telemedicine program, created by the $ 2.2 billion Coronavirus Aid, Aid, and Economic Security Act passed in March. CARES has budgeted $ 200 million for this effort, so the FCC has provided just over half of the total to date.

• However, the agency was criticized for failing to quickly put funds into providers’ pockets. Although the FCC launched its first round of funding in mid-April, on May 20, the agency had only shipped one of 89 approved providers at the time of funding. The FCC has not responded to multiple requests to update the number of providers that have received payments to date.

Providers of all shapes and sizes began strengthening their telemedicine infrastructure in the early days of the pandemic as they broke new ground to make up for lost revenue due to falling patient volumes. Despite the gradual reopening in states across the country, analysts believe the increased use of telemedicine will continue as new coronavirus outbreaks emerge in the US that exceeded the 2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.

However, the implementation and subscription costs for the required hardware and software are so high that they are unacceptable for some basic utility practices, especially smaller ones – tens of thousands of dollars depending on the supplier size and your file. The electronic clinic, virtual care provider, and other factors.

The COVID-19 telehealth program was launched to ease the financial burden on providers so that more patients can receive safe home care during the pandemic. On Wednesday, the FCC approved 67 additional funding requests representing more than $ 20 million for public and nonprofit hospitals, medical practices, and behavioral and mental health service providers.

Providers last round approved by Leyden Family Health Service and Mental Health Center in Franklin Park, Illinois, who received $ 1,468 for phones, wireless data plans, and video conferencing software at NYC Health + Hospitals and Northwestern Memorial HealthCare in Chicago, which received $ 1 million each for more advanced programs.

However, by May, only one approved supplier had received the allocated funds, suggesting a significant delay. FCC chairman Ajit Pai said in a briefing before a House subcommittee that the delay was due to administrative processes. To get your money back, providers will need to submit additional documentation, including an invoice, for the cost of services, equipment, and other eligible expenses.

It is supposed to be a control against fraud, waste, and abuse, but it could impose an additional administrative burden on time-limited providers due to the pandemic. The FCC said at the time that it expects more bills to be approved when the program comes due, more approvals to be given and more bills to be received.

On Friday, the President of the Chamber of Energy and Commerce, Frank Pallone Jr., D-New Jersey, and the Chairman of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, Mike Doyle, D-Pennsylvania, asked the FCC to release more information about where the dollars are flowing into the program.

“We have heard reports of many health workers having trouble raising money, especially those serving tribal lands,” wrote Pallone and Doyle in their letter to President Pai. “Likewise, medical professionals report that they were unable to obtain funding for some critical telemedicine devices that we believe should be regulated by law.”

Both members of Congress urge the FCC to update their website weekly with a list of all requests received, including which ones were approved, when funds were sent to these providers, and a brief explanation. Reasons why the services or devices were not approved before June 19th.

The agency will continue to accept and review applications until $ 200 million funding is depleted or the pandemic is over. Private and for-profit providers are not eligible for the program.