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FCC Seeks Comment on Proposed $100 Million Connected Care Pilot Program

Three-Year Pilot Would Bring Telehealth Services to Low-Income Patients, Veterans, and Areas Lacking Adequate Health Care

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing to establish a three-year, $100 million Connected Care Pilot program that would support bringing telehealth services directly to low-income patients and veterans. 

The proposed Connected Care Pilot would provide an 85% discount on connectivity for broadband-enabled telehealth services that connect patients directly to their doctors and are used to treat a wide range of health conditions. These services can facilitate the effective treatment of chronic conditions outside of the doctor’s office, at significant savings for patients and health care providers. 

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) adopted by the Commission today seeks comment on testing a new program, using the FCC’s existing Rural Health Care Program authority, that would defray the costs of purchasing broadband Internet access service necessary for providing connected care services directly to low-income patients and veterans. 

The NPRM seeks comment on the appropriate budget, duration, and structure of the Pilot, along with other issues, including the following: 

• funding the Pilot program separately so it would have no impact on the budgets of the four existing Universal Service Programs—Lifeline, Rural Health Care, E-Rate, and High-Cost (rural broadband support);

• who should be eligible to participate in the Pilot, including the types of eligible health care providers and broadband service providers;

• limiting the Pilot program to health care providers serving areas with a shortage of health care professionals or with lower-income residents;

• targeting support toward Tribal lands, rural areas, and veteran populations, for which there are well-documented health care disparities; and

• targeting support toward health conditions that have risen to crisis levels or affect significant numbers of Americans, such as opioid dependency, diabetes, heart disease, mental health conditions, and high-risk pregnancy. 

Data gathered through the Pilot program would be used to analyze the possible benefits that support of broadband service for connected care may bring. 

Action by the Commission July 10, 2019, by Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 19-64).  Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly, Carr, Rosenworcel, and Starks approving and issuing separate statements.

— Source: Federal Communications Commission