FCC grants $1.8M in telehealth program awards to 2 Puerto Rico providers
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has awarded some $1.8 million in funding to two Puerto Rico-based healthcare service providers to jumpstart their telehealth initiatives, the federal agency announced.
The Med Centro Healthcare System in Ponce was awarded $909,391 to finance network improvements and buy connected devices, such as laptops and tablets, to implement a telehealth program to provide continuous care to patients during the pandemic whose incomes are primarily below the federal poverty level.
Meanwhile, the Centro de Salud Integral in Naranjito was awarded $869,990 to purchase devices to conduct telehealth visits to care for patients, including those in the isolated central mountainous region of Puerto Rico, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two companies are included in an initial set of 62 applications for funding commitments totaling $42 million for Round 2 of the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which supports the efforts of healthcare providers “to continue serving their patients by providing reimbursement for telecommunications services, information services, and connected devices necessary to enable telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to health care has proven to be not only a national issue, but also a local issue, and it is imperative that every community is given the tools to access this care as safely and effectively as possible,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, in a statement.
“The FCC is committed to ensuring that every state and territory in the United States receive funding as part of this program,” she added.
“The FCC took action earlier this year to establish a system for rating applications in Round 2, factoring in the hardest hit and lowest-income areas, Tribal communities, and previously unfunded states and territories,” she said.
“Now even more doctors and nurses in every corner of our country can establish or expand telehealth services to support patients and their families,” Rosenworcel said.
This first set of awards will go to applications that qualify for the equitable distribution step, as required by Congress, and outlined in the FCC’s rules, to ensure nationwide distribution of funding to health care providers in each state, territory, and the District of Columbia.
This step funds the highest-scoring applications in every state, territory, and the District of Columbia plus the second highest-scoring application from the states and territories that did not receive funding in Round 1, if multiple applications were submitted from those areas, the agency explained.
Round 2 is a $250 million federal initiative that builds on the $200 million program established as part of the CARES Act.
“Now that funding has been committed to the highest-scoring applications from each state, territory, and the District of Columbia, the next funding awards will commit funding to the highest-scoring applications, regardless of geography, until at least $150 million has been committed,” the FCC stated.
The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau will then announce an opportunity for all remaining applicants to supplement their applications, as required by Congress. After they all have the opportunity to supplement, the remaining program funding will be committed, the agency added.