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FCC Announces Connected Care Pilot Program for Public and Nonprofit Health Care Providers

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced a new pilot program opportunity, the Connected Care Pilot Program, that provides up to $100 million from the Universal Service Fund (USF) over a three-year period to selected applicants to support the provision of connected care services. This pilot program will provide funding for selected pilot projects to cover 85% of the eligible costs of broadband connectivity, network equipment, and information services necessary to provide connected care services to the intended patient population.

This program is currently open and closes on Monday, December 7, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Eligible Applicants

The Connected Care Pilot Program is open to eligible health care provider sites that treat patients, whether located in rural or non-rural areas or U.S. territories.  The Connected Care Pilot Program is limited to public and nonprofit eligible health care providers that fall within the categories of health care providers in section 254(h)(7)(B) of the 1996 Act:

  1. post-secondary educational institutions offering health care instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools
  2. community health centers or health centers providing health care to migrants
  3. local health departments or agencies
  4. community mental health centers
  5. not-for-profit hospitals
  6. rural health clinics
  7. skilled nursing facilities
  8. consortia of health care providers consisting of one or more entities falling into the first seven categories

The Commission will have a strong preference for pilot projects that can demonstrate that they will primarily benefit low-income individuals or veterans. For purposes of the Pilot Program, health care providers can determine whether a patient is considered low-income by determining whether: (1) the patient is eligible for Medicaid or (2) the patient’s household income is at or below 135% of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Federal Poverty Guidelines. Health care providers may determine whether a patient qualifies as a veteran for purposes of the Pilot Program by confirming that the patient qualifies for health care through the VA.

Requirements

Prospective applicants must have an approved FCC Form 460 (Eligibility and Registration Form) for each health care provider site for which they intend to purchase eligible services.

Applicants submit their applications through the Connected Care Pilot Program application system which is available at the My Portal link on the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) website at: https://forms.universalservice.org/portal/login.

A health care provider seeking funding for patient broadband Internet access service must also explain in its application how it plans to assess whether a patient lacks broadband service or has insufficient broadband Internet access service for the proposed connected care service based on speed, technology (e.g., fixed or mobile broadband), or other appropriate service characteristics.

Payments

Participants of the Connected Care Pilot Program will be required to conduct a competitive procurement process to solicit and select eligible services and/or equipment.  Applicants will be required to follow the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program’s competitive bidding requirements, which include submitting a Request for Services Form (FCC Form 461) and Request for Proposal (RFP) (as applicable) for the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to post on its website, seeking bids, waiting 28 days before selecting a service provider, conducting a bid evaluation to select a service provider, and then selecting the most-cost effective service. Exemptions to the competitive bidding requirements are addressed in FAQ #37, found here: https://www.fcc.gov/connected-care-pilot-program-frequently-asked-questions-faqs#Q17.

Assistance

You can reach out to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) with specific questions about eligibility, the FCC Form 460 or Health Care Provide Numbers (HCP Numbers), by email at RHC-Assist@usac.org. For more information on the Connected Care Pilot Program, refer to the program announcement or Connected Care Pilot Program FAQs. To receive updates and announcements, please join the Connected Care Pilot Program email mailing list. You may contact ConnectedCare@fcc.gov for questions or inquiries about the Connected Care Pilot Program.