FCC Opens New Round of Telehealth Funding; Telehealth Restrictions Debated

Today the FCC opens a second round of funding for its COVID-19 telehealth program. The agency will distribute at least $150 million in this round, with applications closing May 6. In 2020, the CARES Act established the FCC telehealth program to help healthcare organizations purchase equipment, IT services and devices to provide care via telehealth. A new round of funding ($250 million) was added to the program through the Consolidated Appropriates Act passed earlier this year. Telehealth remains a key topic for primary care practices—both in terms of funding and practice restrictions. The CONNECT for Health Act of 2021 (S. 2741/H.R. 4932 in the previous Congress) proposes permanently lifting or expanding geographic and site-based restrictions, permanently allowing for waivers during public health emergencies, and requiring studies on the impact of telehealth on utilization and care. And there is a range of perspectives—from payers to purchasers and policymakers and clinicians—on how best to approach payment for telehealth going forward.

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