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April 2021

FCC Now Accepting Round 2 COVID-19 Telehealth Program Applications

By News


Application Window Open April 29-May 6, Will Provide an Additional $249.95 Million to Support Health Care Providers and Patients In All 50 States, DC, and Territories

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2021—The Federal Communications Commission today announced the application window for Round 2 of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program is now open.  Applications will be accepted through Thursday, May 6, 2021 at 12:00 PM ET.  Round 2 of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program is a $249.95 million federal initiative that builds on the $200 million program established as part of the CARES Act.  Applications can be submitted online at

“I’m pleased to announce that eligible health care providers can now apply for the second half of funding for the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program,” said Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  “This program has helped provide a lifeline to health care providers by expanding connected health services during the pandemic.  I’d like to extend my continued gratitude to our FCC team for quickly standing up the second phase of this important program.”

The FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program supports the efforts of health care 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.

For additional information on eligibility and the application process, review the Application Process Guidance available on the Universal Service Administrative Company’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program webpage at  Questions specific to the application process should be directed to [email protected].

###Media Relations: (202) 418-0500 / ASL: (844) 432-2275 / Twitter: @FCC /

This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action.  Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action.  See MCI v. FCC, 515 F.2d 385 (D.C. Cir. 1974).

Schatz, Wicker lead Bipartisan Group if 50 Senators in reintroducing Legislation to expand Telehealth access, make permanent Telehealth flexibilities available during COVID-19 Pandemic

By News

For Immediate Release

April 29, 2021


Mike Inacay (202) 224-3123


Telehealth Use Among Medicare Beneficiaries Increased By 13,000% In Just A Month And A Half During The Pandemic

CONNECT For Health Act Holds Broad Bipartisan Support, Most Comprehensive Legislation On Telehealth In Congress

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) led a bipartisan group of 50 senators in reintroducing the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2021. The CONNECT for Health Act will expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare, make permanent COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities, improve health outcomes, and make it easier for patients to safely connect with their doctors.

“The last year has shown us that telehealth works, it’s popular, and it’s here to stay,” said Senator Schatz. “Our comprehensive bill makes it easier for more people to safely get the care they need no matter where they live.”

“Telehealth is enabling more people to receive the care they need, leading to improved outcomes and lower costs,” Senator Wicker said. “This bipartisan legislation would build on the success of telehealth in states like Mississippi to eliminate existing barriers and expand access to lifesaving care for more Americans.”

Three provisions from the CONNECT for Health Act were included in COVID-19 relief legislation to expand access to telehealth during the pandemic. As a result, telehealth has seen a sharp rise in use since the start of pandemic as patients seek to avoid traveling to hospitals and other health care settings and instead receive care at home. Data shows that the number of Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth services increased by about 13,000 percent in just a month and a half during the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated telehealth’s utility in delivering essential care. As we look beyond the pandemic, it is clear that telehealth will be a crucial tool in addressing health disparities for populations with diminished access to care,” said Senator Cardin. “I’m proud to continue partnering with my colleagues on this bipartisan bill that will increase the availability of telehealth and help deliver better health care to Americans in every part of Maryland and across the country.”

“South Dakotans were utilizing telehealth services long before the pandemic, and they understand the value and increased access it brings,” said Senator Thune. “We’ve learned plenty from the pandemic, and it’s now all the more clear how important it is to continue to expand access to telehealth. I appreciate the opportunity to work with my colleagues and stakeholders on this important bill that will make it easier for patients to use telehealth.”

“If we’ve learned anything in the past 14 months, it’s that people are better off when they’re able to see a doctor quickly, easily, and from the comfort of home. This is particularly the case for folks in rural or medically underserved communities, who may otherwise have to travel long distances to get basic medical services,” said Senator Warner. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation, which will enable Virginians to make the most of telehealth capabilities and access the quality and affordable health care they need as soon as they need it.”

“The past year has highlighted the value of telehealth, and those benefits will increase with rapidly advancing technology,” said Senator Hyde-Smith. “This legislation would help ensure Mississippians and Americans can continue to rely on telehealth services for easier access to affordable, quality care, even after the pandemic ends.”

In addition to Senators Schatz, Wicker, Cardin, Thune, Warner, and Hyde-Smith, the CONNECT for Health is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Angus King (I-Maine), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Chris Coons (D-Del.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

The CONNECT for Health Act was first introduced in 2016 and is considered the most comprehensive legislation on telehealth in Congress. Since 2016, several provisions of the bill were enacted into law or adopted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, including provisions to remove restrictions on telehealth services for mental health, stroke care, and home dialysis.

The updated version of the CONNECT for Health Act builds on that progress and includes new and revised provisions that will help more people access telehealth services. Specifically, the legislation will:

  • Permanently remove all geographic restrictions on telehealth services and expand originating sites to include the home and other sites;
  • Allow health centers and rural health clinics to provide telehealth services, a provision currently in place due to the pandemic but on a temporary basis;
  • Provide the Secretary of Health and Human Services with the permanent authority to waive telehealth restrictions, a provision currently in place due to the pandemic but on a temporary basis;
  • Allow for the waiver of telehealth restrictions during public health emergencies; and
  • Require a study to learn more about how telehealth has been used during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.).

The CONNECT for Health Act has the support of more than 150 organizations including AARP, America’s Essential Hospitals, American College of Emergency Physicians, American Hospital Association, American Heart Association, American Medical Association, American Medical Group Association, American Nurses Association, American Telemedicine Association, Children’s National Hospital, eHealth Initiative, Federation of American Hospitals, Health Innovation Alliance, HIMSS, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Community Health Centers, National Association of Rural Health Clinics, National Rural Health Association, Personal Connected Health Alliance, and Teladoc Health.

“Our thanks go to longstanding telehealth champions Sen. Schatz, Sen. Wicker, and the 50 co-sponsors of this bipartisan bill, for their continued efforts to make access to telehealth a permanent part of care delivery in our country,”

said Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA). “By ensuring Medicare beneficiaries do not lose access to telehealth after the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency ends, the CONNECT ACT protects seniors from the telehealth cliff. The ATA remains committed to working with Congress to advance swift, comprehensive policy that will explicitly ensure that everyone has access to safe, effective, and appropriate care when and where they need it, no matter where they live.”

“Federal action to expand telehealth services during the pandemic has been a lifeline that helped keep patients connected to care and allowed health centers to keep their doors open,” said Tom Van Coverden, president and CEO of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). “For patients on Medicare, especially people living in rural areas, without access to smart phones or reliable broadband, expanded telehealth flexibilities are essential to health and wellness. We cannot reverse progress, especially now. The CONNECT for Health Act ensures health centers can permanently extend these services for our Medicare population and the underserved. We are deeply grateful for the leadership of Senators Brian Schatz and Roger Wicker, as well as their colleagues on the Senate telehealth working group, in advancing this important legislation.”

A summary of the bill and the full list of endorsing organizations are available here.

Training and Resources for COVID-19 Telehealth Program Second Round

By News

April 27, 2021

On April 15, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that the application window for the Round 2 of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program will open on April 29 and close on May 6.  Previously, on March 30, the FCC released a Report and Order  detailing the application process for its COVID-19 Telehealth Program’s second round of funding (Round 2).  Health care providers (HCPs) must have an approved eligibility determination from USAC to receive Round 2 funding.

To stay informed about Round 2 of the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, visit USAC’s website and sign up for COVID-19 Telehealth email outreach.

The application filing window will open on Thursday, April 29, 2021 at 12:00 p.m. ET, and will close on Thursday, May 6, 2021 at 12:00 p.m. ET.  USAC is hosting a series of trainings, including a Tribal training, in the lead up to the window opening to help HCPs prepare to apply.  Register below to join these trainings and visit the COVID-19 Telehealth resources page to watch the training recordings after the training date has passed:

COVID-19 Telehealth Overview on April 22 at 1 p.m. ET: Watch Recording
COVID-19 Telehealth Eligibility on April 26 at 2 p.m. ET: Watch Recording
COVID-19 Telehealth Program Training for Prospective Tribal Applicants  on April 26 at 4:30 p.m. ET: Watch Recording
COVID-19 Telehealth Application Process on April 28 at 1 p.m. ET: Register

In the meantime, HCPs can prepare for the application filing window by confirming that they have an approved eligibility determination with USAC, signing up for an FCC Registration Number (FRN) through the Commission Registration System (CORES), if they haven’t already done so, and completing their federal System of Award Management (SAM) registration, if necessary.

Our CEO was a voice on Palmetto Perspectives at SCETV earlier this month

By News

Kathy Schwarting, CEO of Palmetto Care Connections, says data can help lead policy change and ensure that reimbursements for #telehealth services continue beyond the #coronavirus pandemic. Palmetto Perspectives, SCETV’s community engagement-focused series, recently featured a panel discussion exploring #healthcare disparities in South Carolina. During that episode, Schwarting responded to this question: “How do we make sure that the broader scope of telehealth-based services like prenatal care and home newborn assessments – how can they be continued as we move out from under the pandemic?” To watch the entire episode:

Can Telehealth Help Healthcare Providers Tackle Rural Health Disparities?

By News

Federal officials are awarding almost $13 million to dozens of organizations across 35 states to create rural health partnerships that use telehealth and other strategies to take on rural health disparities.

By Eric Wicklund


– Federal officials have awarded almost $13 million in funding to help healthcare providers use telehealth and other services to address rural health disparities.

Some 61 organizations across 35 states will share the funding from the Health and Human Services Department’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) through its community-based Rural Health Care Services Outreach Program. The program “expands and improves health services for rural residents by supporting innovative and evidence-based approaches tailored to the specific needs of local communities.”

The program’s goal is to improve access to care and clinical outcomes by targeting barriers to access in rural communities that drive down health outcomes. That might include lack of social services, economic status, community infrastructure (such as broadband access), access to specialty services and even cultural concerns.

“HRSA is dedicated to supporting community-focused approaches to improve health care in rural and underserved areas,” Acting HRSA Administrator Diana Espinosa said in a press release. “Through strong partnerships with local organizations, the Outreach Program will improve the health of the nation’s underserved and vulnerable rural populations and expand access to comprehensive, culturally competent, quality primary health care services.”

Connected health tools and platforms are proving popular and effective in addressing rural health outcomes, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. Through these channels, healthcare providers can reach out into underserved populations with targeted messaging and improved access to care and other services, addressing barriers that drive down health outcomes.

Examples include mHealth messages that address chronic care management, health centers and clinics that use telehealth to connect with social and specialty services, and mHealth apps and devices that enable people to better manage their health and wellness.

The program is split into two phases. In the first, the HRSA’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy is issuing $8.98 million to 45 organizations to collaborate with local healthcare and social service groups to improve care for underserved and socioeconomically disadvantaged rural residents. Those services will include telehealth, chronic disease management and prevention, care coordination, dental and behavioral healthcare services and other services that target the social determinants of health.

The second phase is new, and focuses on the HRSA’s Healthy Rural Hometown Initiative (HRHI) which aims to take on underlying factors that drive the five most common causes of avoidable death: heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke. Some 16 groups will share $3.79 million to take on those issues.

CCHP’S New Website & Integrated Telehealth Policy Database Tool

By News

Today the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) has launched its newly redesigned website with a revamped telehealth policy database tool (called ‘Policy Finder’).  Historically, CCHP has released twice a year (Spring and Fall) updates to its “State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Policies” report in the form of a PDF report document that details all the telehealth policies for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Over the years this has evolved to include an update to CCHP’s online database of the same information.  The information in the State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Report has now transitioned exclusively to a new and improved Policy Finder tool.  This online database tool allows CCHP to easily update each state’s information on a more frequent basis instead of updating only in the Spring and Fall.  Additionally, while there will no longer be a single PDF report with every state, the information from the online database can now be exported for each state into a PDF document using the most current information available on CCHP’s website. Don’t worry, you can still view our findings through our executive summary, infographic, and at-a-glance summary chart.

The new website also includes new features, such as: 

  • The ability to compare the policy of any of the topic areas for any two states
  • COVID-19 state actions have now been integrated into each state policy page
  • View color coded maps recapping policy trends by state across topic areas such as:
    • Medicaid reimbursement for live video, store and forward and remote patient monitoring
    • states with private payer laws
  • Two new topic areas have been added under the Professional Requirements Category:
    • Licensure Compacts
    • Professional Boards Standards

This transition away from the cumbersome 500-page report over to exclusively using CCHPs new policy finder tool will result in more timely policy information that is easier for users to navigate and understand.  In case you do need help navigating the new information, view this quick tutorial on how the new Finder tool can be easily utilized.

Study: In-ambulance telehealth consultation leads to faster stroke treatment

By News

Researchers at Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Health found that in-ambulance telehealth consultations led to faster treatment times for stroke patients. (Photo/MUSC Health)

South Carolina researchers found that door-to-treatment time was cut by 18 minutes with in-ambulance telehealth consultation

Yesterday at 1:40 PM

By Laura French

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A recent study found that in-ambulance telehealth consultations led to quicker treatment times for stroke patients.

The study conducted by researchers at Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Health, in partnership with Georgetown Memorial Hospital and Hampton Regional Medical Center, found that door-to-treatment times were cut by about 18 minutes on average when telehealth consultations began in the ambulance, according to an MUSC press release.

“A 15-minute reduction in door-to-treatment time leads to patients with reduced complications from tPA and significant reduction in disability or death,” said Christine Holmestedt, D.O., the medical director of MUSC Health’s Comprehensive Stroke Center, in a statement. “They are more likely to be discharged to an acute rehab rather than long-term care, and they have much better functional outcomes.”

The study tested a new telestroke workflow that involved three-way communication between the patient and EMS crew, a stroke specialist and staff at the receiving hospital. The in-ambulance consultations helped emergency department doctors and nurses better prepare for the patient’s arrival, and also helped determine whether the ambulance should be rerouted to a comprehensive stroke center rather than the closest hospital, according to MUSC.

“These improved outcomes reduce disability and even death for patients seen with acute stroke,” Holmstedt stated. “And they don’t negatively impact the EMT workflow, so we can bring more efficient treatment options to the state’s rural population.

Most Consumers Want to Keep Telehealth After the COVID-19 Pandemic

By News

According to a new report, almost 88% of Americans want to continue using telehealth for non-urgent consultations after COVID-19 has passed. To assess consumer perspectives of telehealth, as well as how they may have shifted over the course of the pandemic, customer engagement company SYKES polled 2,000 Americans in March of 2021 and compared their responses with previous survey results on the subject from March of 2020. The research found substantial increases in virtual care support and satisfaction as a majority of Americans have now experienced telehealth firsthand. In March of 2020, about 20% of respondents had experienced a telehealth appointment, compared to over 61% in March of 2021. Nearly 80% said they feel it is possible to receive quality care through telehealth visits, and willingness to try telehealth in the future was shown to have jumped from about 60% to 80% as well. The survey also showed positive perceived benefits of telehealth, for instance nearly 86% of respondents say telehealth made it easier for them to get the care they need, and over 31% said their healthcare costs decreased at the same time.

Additional notable information garnered from the survey include the following findings:

  • 31% felt their doctor comes across more empathetic via telehealth
  • 64% said they’d prefer to have parts of their annual physical done via telehealth
  • 74% would be willing to share health data from a digital fitness tracker or smart medical device with their physicians
  • 74% believe telehealth appointments will become the norm

Overall, the responses seem to show consumer support and preferences toward telehealth will only continue to grow moving forward. Additional information on the survey and findings can be found on the SYKES report website.


House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn highlights infrastructure needs in SC, pushes for American Jobs Plan

By News

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 22: Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) speaks during a news conference to discuss an upcoming House vote regarding statues on Capitol Hill on July 22, 2020 in Washington, DC. House Democrats have introduced a bill that would replace the bust of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney in the Old Supreme Court Chamber at the U.S. Capitol with one of former Justice Thurgood Marshall. Taney was the author of the 1857 Dred Scott decision that declared African Americans couldn’t be citizens. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

by: Chase Laudenslager
Posted: Apr 14, 2021/09:11 PM EDT/ Updated: Apr 14, 2021 / 09:16 PM EDT

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WCBD) – U.S. House of Representatives Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) on Wednesday released data collected by the American Society of Civil Engineers highlighting infrastructure shortcomings in South Carolina.

Clyburn cited the following as some of the report’s key findings:

  • 12% of households do not have access to broadband
  • 3,780 miles of road and 745 bridges are in disrepair
  • 19% of trains and other transit vehicles in the state are past their useful life
  •  267,000 renters pay more than 30% of their income in rent due to shortages in affordable housing units
  • South Carolina needs $6.1 billion in modernization costs to ensure safe drinking water
  • 34% of families have few or no childcare options in their communities, preventing parents from joining the workforce
  • 402,000 veterans in South Carolina rely on VA facilities, which have been chronically underfunded – leading to longer waits and lower quality care
  • An average low-income family in South Carolina currently pays 10-12% of their income toward energy bills because their home has not been sufficiently weatherized
  • South Carolina has experienced 37 extreme weather events in the past decade, which will only increase in frequency and severity due to the climate crisis.

To improve infrastructure throughout the state and country, Clyburn is advocating for the American Jobs Plan, which he says “will help all South Carolina communities meet their 21st Century challenges.”

Specifically, the plan “commits significant resources to lower energy costs and end digital deserts, consistent with [Clyburn’s] Affordable Internet for All Act.”

Click here for a full breakdown of how the plan would address South Carolina’s infrastructure needs.