Health care providers have been on the front lines of the current pandemic. Thankfully, millions of dollars have been appropriated by the federal government to help ease the burden on health care organizations, as part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In addition, there are existing programs that may make more sense for you to participate in given our new circumstances.

Today, Consolidated Communications helps thousands of health care facilities connect doctors, hospitals and patients across town or across the country…expanding the resources available to keep people healthy. We look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve your organization.

Here are some of the programs your organization should have on its radar:

Although we can educate you about these opportunities, we do not claim to be total experts in all facets of each program and cannot assist with the application or competitive bidding processes associated with them.


COVID-19 Telehealth Program

The FCC recognizes the need for additional support and has enacted a $200 million COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Telehealth comprises many services, from something as simple as making appointments online, to using Internet-connected monitoring devices, to conducting an entire primary care visit via video chat.

The support provided through the new COVID-19 Telehealth Program will help eligible health care providers purchase telecommunications services, information services, and connected devices necessary to provide critical connected care services, whether for treatment of coronavirus or other health conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Each eligible health care provider will be able to apply for up to $1 million to improve and subsidize telehealth services around the country. Unlike other programs like the Healthcare Connect Fund Program and Connected Care Pilot Program, the COVID-19 Telehealth Program reimburses providers for 100% of eligible expenses. In addition, the funding is available immediately, without a competitive bidding process. In addition, both rural and non-rural public and nonprofit health care providers can be deemed eligible, pending filing of the FCC Form 460 with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).

So what’s the catch? The funding is only available on a first-come, first-served basis, or as long as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Health care providers can now apply online on the FCC’s website.


Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF)

A $100 billion fund covers the non-reimbursable expenses of health care organizations that are attributable to COVID-19. All health care entities that provide health care, diagnoses or testing are eligible for funding. Examples include building or retrofitting new ICUs, increased staffing or training, personal protective equipment, the building of temporary structures and more. Forgone revenue from cancelled procedures, which has put significant strain on the health care system, is also a qualified expense. Any expenses reimbursed or obligated to be reimbursed by insurance or other mechanisms are not eligible.

Applications will be reviewed and approved by Health and Human Services on a rolling basis in order to get money into the health system as quickly as possible. The application process for obtaining PHSSEF funds should be available shortly on the Health and Human Services website.


Paycheck Protection Program

501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, including hospitals, health systems, and health care providers, are eligible for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. Eligible organizations can apply to an SBA-approved lender for a loan of up to 250 percent of their average monthly payroll costs to cover eight weeks of payroll and help with other expenses like rent, mortgage payments, and utilities. This loan can be forgiven based on maintaining employee and salary levels. For any portion of the loan that is not forgiven, the terms include a maximum term of 10 years, a maximum interest rate of 4 percent. This program is retroactive to February 15, 2020, in order to help bring workers who may have already been laid off back onto payrolls. Loans are available through June 30, 2020.


Healthcare Connect Fund Program

Access to modern technology is vital to health care facilities, particularly those in rural communities. That’s the focus of the federal Universal Service Fund’s Rural Healthcare Program, and its Healthcare Connect Fund. The Rural Healthcare Program makes $400 million per year available to improve the quality of health care available in rural communities by ensuring that eligible health care providers have access to affordable telecommunications and broadband services.

The Healthcare Connect Fund provides discounts on high-capacity broadband connectivity and the equipment necessary to provide broadband service, as well as Internet access charges. Eligible rural and non-rural health care providers participating in consortia may seek reimbursements for 65 percent of the cost of eligible Internet and broadband-related expenses, but are responsible for the remaining 35 percent of costs. Eligible expenses include broadband services and equipment, and, for consortium applicants, health care provider constructed and owned network facilities.

Applicants must follow the Rural Health Care Program’s competitive bidding requirements, which include submitting a Request for Services and a Request for Proposal (as applicable) to 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. All potential bidders must have access to the same information and be treated in the same manner during the competitive bidding period to ensure that the process is “fair and open.”


Connected Care Pilot Program

Originally conceived in July 2018, the FCC published the final rules for the Connected Care Pilot Program on April 2, 2020. This program makes up to $100 million available over three years to support the trend toward connected care services and learn how these services can improve health care outcomes and reduce health care costs. “Connected care” is defined as a subset of telehealth that uses Internet-enabled technologies to deliver remote medical, diagnostic and treatment-related services directly to patients at their mobile location or residence.

The Pilot Program will help defray costs of providing connected care services, with a particular emphasis on supporting access for low-income Americans and veterans in managing chronic conditions. Qualifying health care providers can get reimbursed for 85 percent of the eligible costs of broadband connectivity (for the provider and the pilot program patients), network equipment (routers and servers, etc.), and information services necessary to provide connected care services.

Eligible health care providers design their proposed pilot projects, select the service providers for the supported services and network equipment, and identify and enroll the qualifying participating patients. However, funding will be steered toward pilot projects that are focused on treating public health epidemics, opioid dependency, mental health conditions, high-risk pregnancy, or chronic or recurring conditions that typically require at least several months to treat.

Eligibility rules, as well as the application and competitive bidding process, are similar to the Healthcare Connect Fund Program. Participants have up to six months from the date of their initial funding commitment letter from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to start their pilot projects. During that time, providers must conduct a procurement process to solicit and select eligible services and/or equipment.

The electronic application deadline for submissions to the FCC is July 31, 2020. Interested providers may submit questions about the Connected Care Pilot Program at