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FCC Funding Opportunity for Telehealth Equipment – Portal Open

Telehealth is becoming a necessary practice for healthcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, not all providers have the means to institute a telehealth program. In order to help non-profit and public healthcare providers utilize telehealth, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES Act) set aside $200 million in funds for telehealth equipment, broadband connectivity, and information services. The FCC has recently released a guidance document that describes how eligible providers can apply for this “COVID-19 Telehealth Program” and the portal for applying will open today, April 13, 2020 at 12:00 PM ET.

Eligible providers include:

  • Post-secondary educational institutions offering health care instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools;
  • Community health centers or health centers providing health care to migrants;
  • Local health departments or agencies;
  • Community mental health centers;
  • Not-for-profit hospitals;
  • Rural health clinics;
  • Skilled nursing facilities; or
  • Consortia of health care providers consisting of one or more entities above.

These providers can apply for up to $1 million each to purchase “telecommunications, information services, and connected devices to provide connected care services in response to the coronavirus pandemic.” Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis so providers must apply for these funds as soon as they are available. The FCC has also indicated that it plans to target applicants serving high-risk and vulnerable patients, although the telehealth resources need not be directly related to treating COVID-19, and that applicants should indicate if they were under pre-existing strain (e.g., large underserved or low-income patient population; health care provider shortages; rural hospital closures; limited broadband access and/or Internet adoption). Other notable details of this funding opportunity include:

  • The requirement to conduct competitive bidding for covered purchases will be waived for covered purchases, although providers should be cost-conscious;
  • The standard prohibition on receiving gifts above nominal value will also be waived for items related to telehealth;
  • Providers may NOT receive these funds and other federal or state funds that cover the exact same services/devices;
  • Funding may NOT be used for health care provider administrative costs associated with participating in the COVID-19 telehealth Program (e.g., costs associated with completing COVID-19 Telehealth Program applications and other submissions) or other miscellaneous expenses (e.g., doctor and staff time spent on the COVID-19 Telehealth Program and outreach); and
  • Eligible providers who have purchased telecommunications and/or telemedicine equipment after March 13 can apply for funding support for those and any subsequent purchases.

The application is available starting April 13, 2020 at 12:00 PM ET. These funds are first-come, first-served so providers should follow the following steps to be sure they are ready to apply:

  • Obtain an eligibility determination from FCC to receive funds (if a provider does not have one already, they can file an FCC Form 460 with the Universal Service Administration Company at the same time they submit their application for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program);
  • Obtain an FCC Registration Number (FRN); and
  • Register with System for Award Management (will help the award be processed quickly but can be done concurrently with applying for the telehealth funds).

The FCC will make an online portal available for completing and submitting applications and requests for funding here. Applicants can also use this link to find a webinar on April 13, 2020 at 11:00 AM ET to assist interested parties in navigating the application portal and answering FAQs about the program. More information will be posted on the Commission’s Keep Americans Connected page.

If you have any questions about the COVID-19 Telehealth Program please reach out to a BMD healthcare attorney.

Update: President Trump Signs Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020

On June 3, 2020, Congress updated the CARES Act by passing the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (“FA”). The legislation, which has not yet been signed into law by President Trump, would provide more flexibility to small businesses who received loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”).

Workers’ Compensation Claims and COVID-19

Can one of my employees file a workers’ compensation claim if they claim that they contracted coronavirus at work? We get that question a lot. Yes, they can, but you should oppose any application for coverage if you receive one. Generally, the claim will not be granted unless the employee has a job that poses a special hazard or risk of exposure to the virus and the employee can prove that he or she contracted the virus at work.

Ohio State Dental Board Implements Teledentistry Rules

Ohio law defines “teledentistry” as the delivery of dental services through the use of synchronous, real-time communication and the delivery of services of a dental hygienist or expanded function dental auxiliary pursuant to a dentist’s authorization.[1] The law requires a dentist who desires to provide dental services through teledentistry to apply for a teledentistry permit from the Ohio State Dental Board (“OSDB”).[2] Pursuant to the mandate under Ohio Revised Code 4715.436, the OSDB is implementing the following teledentistry permit rules and requirements (to be set forth under Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 4715-23). These regulations, which were subject of a public hearing on February 19, 2020, are effective on May 30, 2020.

HHS Addresses Drug Manufacturer Coupons on Out-of-Pocket Limits

On May 7, 2020, the US Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) announced their Notice of Benefit Parameters for 2021 in which HHS addressed the application of prescription drug manufacturer copay coupons towards a patient’s out-of-pocket limit. Under this guidance, HHS will permit, but not require, plans and insurers to count direct support offered to enrollees by drug manufacturers (i.e., coupons) for specific prescription drugs toward the annual limits on cost-sharing, regardless of whether a generic equivalent is available.

Important Updates, Deadlines, and Clarifications for the HHS Provider Relief Funds

On May 20, 2020, HHS made important updates and clarifications regarding the General Distribution payments to providers. Between April 10, 2020 and April 24, 2020, HHS distributed an initial $30 billion to providers based on the provider’s 2019 Medicare fee-for-service receipts. These funds were distributed automatically and providers did not need to submit an application in order to receive these funds. The funds were originally touted as a “no strings attached” stimulus payment reserved for healthcare providers. But HHS issued a 10-page Terms and Conditions and required that providers sign an attestation confirming receipt of the funds and agreeing to the Terms and Conditions.