BACKGROUND ON THE PILOT PROGRAM

  1. What is the Connected Care Pilot Program?

The Pilot Program is a limited duration program that will provide universal service support to help defray health care providers’ qualifying costs of providing connected care services, with a primary focus on providing these services to low-income or veteran patients.  The Pilot Program will make available up to $100 million to be committed over a three-year funding period and will be separate from the budgets of the existing Universal Service Fund (USF) programs.  The Pilot Program will provide funding for selected pilot projects to cover 85% of the eligible costs of broadband connectivity, network equipment, and information services necessary to provide connected care services to the intended patient population.  The Pilot Program will not fund end-user devices or medical equipment.  The Commission expects that the Pilot Program will benefit many low-income and veteran patients who are responding to a wide variety of health challenges such as diabetes management, opioid dependency, high-risk pregnancies, pediatric heart disease, mental health conditions, and cancer. 

  1. Is this a grant program?

No, the Connected Care Pilot Program is not a grant program.  Eligible health care providers that are selected to participate in the Pilot Program will be required to conduct a competitive procurement process for eligible services and network equipment and submit a funding request to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) in order to receive a funding commitment for eligible services and network equipment.  After receiving a funding commitment, the service provider, in conjunction with the health care provider, will be required to submit an invoicing form (FCC Form 463) and supporting documentation in order to receive reimbursement for eligible expenses and services.  Health care providers participating in the Pilot Program will be required to comply with all program rules and requirements, including applicable reporting requirements, and may be subject to compliance audits.

  1.  Where can I obtain information on the Rules and Requirements for the Pilot Program?

The Report and Order establishing the Pilot Program outlines the rules and requirements that are applicable to the Pilot Program.Additional guidance is also provided in these FAQs, and the Wireline Competition Bureau’s September Public Notice and November Public Notice.

APPLICATION PROCESS

  1. When does the Pilot Program application window open and what is the application deadline?

The Pilot Program’s application filing window opens on Friday, November 6, 2020 at 12:00 PM ET and will remain open through Monday, December 7, 2020 at 11:59 PM ET.

  1. How do I access the Pilot Program application?

To access the Pilot Program application, prospective applicants must have an approved FCC Form 460.Prospective applications with an approved FCC Form 460 may access the application through the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC’s) website here.  Eligible health care providers will use their My Portal log-in credentials that were provided when their FCC Form 460 (Eligibility and Registration Form) was approved for their eligible site. If you need assistance with accessing the application system, please contact the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) at and RHC-Assist@usac.org.

  1. How do I submit the application for the Connected Care Pilot Program?

Applicants submit their applications through the Connected Care Pilot Program application system which is available at the My Portal link on the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) website at: https://forms.universalservice.org/portal/login.

  1. Can applicants modify submitted applications?

During the filing window, an applicant will be allowed to make necessary modifications to its Application Form until the application submission deadline.  Each applicant is responsible for maintaining the accuracy and completeness of its application.

  1. What should I do if I do not yet have an approved FCC Form 460?

Information on filing an FCC Form 460 can be found in Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) numbers 17 and 18.

  1. What can interested applicants do in preparation for the Connected Care Pilot Program application becoming available?

Applicants can prepare for the Connected Care Pilot Program application by filing FCC Forms 460s (Eligibility and Registration Form), and obtaining Health Care Provider Numbers (HCP Numbers) for each site for which they intend to purchase eligible services or network equipment.  Health care providers seeking to purchase supported services for more than one health care provider site must request an eligibility determination for each health care provider site for which they intend to purchase eligible services.  If a single health care provider or health system has multiple locations, they must file an FCC Form 460 for each location for which they intend to purchase eligible services or network equipment.

  1. Can health care providers use a prior approved FCC Form 460?

Yes, applicants with a prior approved FCC Form 460 can rely on that prior approval to apply for the Pilot Program.

  1. Can health care providers apply for support under the Connected Care Pilot Program if they already received or are receiving support under the COVID-19 Telehealth Program or participate in the FCC’s existing Rural Health Care (RHC) Program?

Yes, applicants who received funding for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program may later submit applications to participate in the broader Connected Care Pilot Program, but may not request funding for the same exact services from both programs at the same time.  Health care providers that participate in the existing Rural Health Care (RHC) Program may also apply for the Connected Care Pilot Program but may not receive duplicative funding across programs. 

  1. How can I determine whether my health care provider site is located in a rural area or serves patients in a rural area?

Health care providers can determine whether their site is located in a rural area or serves patients in a rural area by using the Universal Service Administration Company’s (USAC) Eligible Rural Areas Search Tool

  1. Are there any resources to assist with the Connected Care Pilot Program application?

Yes, you can find more information about the Connected Care Pilot Program application and helpful resources on the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) website.

  1. Who should I contact if I have issues with the application system?

Please contact the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) either by email at RHC-Assist@usac.org or by phone at (800) 453-1546 (Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET).

 

HEALTH CARE PROVIDER ELIGIBILITY

  1. Who is eligible to receive funding?

The Connected Care Pilot Program is open to eligible health care provider sites that treat patients, whether located in rural or non-rural areas or U.S. territories.  The Connected Care Pilot Program is limited to public and nonprofit eligible health care providers that fall within the categories of health care providers in section 254(h)(7)(B) of the 1996 Act, regardless of whether they are non-rural or rural.  The statutory categories of health care providers in section 254(h)(7)(B) include:

(1) post-secondary educational institutions offering health care instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools;
(2) community health centers or health centers providing health care to migrants;
(3) local health departments or agencies;
(4) community mental health centers;
(5) not-for-profit hospitals;
(6) rural health clinics;
(7) skilled nursing facilities; or
(8) consortia of health care providers consisting of one or more entities falling into the first seven categories. 

  1. Are private, or for-profit health care providers eligible to receive funding?

No, private and for-profit entities are not eligible to receive funding through the Connected Care Pilot Program.  For example, a private physicians’ practice would not be eligible for support through this program.

  1. How can health care providers determine if they are eligible to participate?

Only health care providers that fall within the categories of health care providers in section 254(h)(7)(B) of the Telecommunications Act, listed above under question 6, are eligible to participate in the Pilot Program.  Health care providers seeking to participate in the program must obtain an eligibility determination from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) by filing an FCC Form 460 (Eligibility and Registration Form) for each health care provider site for which they intend to purchase eligible services.  Health care providers seeking to purchase supported services for more than one health care provider site must request an eligibility determination for each health care provider site for which they intend to purchase eligible services.  Thus, an FCC Form 460 must be filed for each individual site for which the applicant will purchase eligible services.  If you do not already have an eligibility determination for each site from USAC, you can obtain one by filing an FCC Form 460 through My Portal on USAC’s webpage.

*Note:  Language on the FCC Form 460 referencing a rural or consortium requirement does not apply to the Connected Care Pilot Program.

  1. How do I get help with the FCC Form 460 (Eligibility and Registration Form) or Health Care Provider Numbers (HCP Numbers)?

You can reach out to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) with specific questions about eligibility, the FCC Form 460 or Health Care Provide Numbers (HCP Numbers), by email at RHC-Assist@usac.org

 

APPLICATIONS WITH MULTIPLE HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS

  1. Can multiple health care providers apply together on one application?

Yes.  Multiple health care providers can apply together on one application.  Each health care provider site that intends to receive eligible items with Connected Care Pilot Program funding must have its own eligibility determination from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).  The entity applying on behalf of other eligible health care providers must have the necessary authorizations to file the application on behalf of the participating health care providers. 

  1. Is there a limit on how many health care providers can be included in an application?

No, there is no limit on the number of health care providers that can apply together on one application.

  1. Who should I put as the lead entity or lead health care provider?

You must identify a lead entity or lead health care provider for your pilot project.  You may select one of the health care providers included in the application to be the lead health care provider, or the lead entity may be a consortium lead that is not a health care provider, or an umbrella organization for the participating health care providers.  The lead may be responsible for submitting the necessary forms and reports and ensuring compliance with the document retention requirements.  Lead entities that are not themselves eligible health care providers may not receive Pilot Program funding.

  1. If I apply as a health care system or include multiple health care provider sites on my application, can I only file one FCC Form 460 (Eligibility and Registration Form) for the lead health care provider?

No.  Each health care provider site that seeks to receive services and/or network equipment under the Connected Care Pilot Program must qualify as an eligible health care provider, and therefore must have its own FCC Form 460 eligibility determination from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to receive reimbursement for eligible costs incurred under the Connected Care Pilot Program.  Filing a single FCC Form 460, and obtaining a single Health Care Provider Number (HCP Number) for a health care provider seeking to purchase eligible services and/or network equipment for multiple sites is not sufficient if seeking funding for multiple sites through the Connected Care Pilot Program.

ELIGIBLE PATIENTS

  1. Are there limits on the patients that are eligible for the Pilot Program?

The Commission will have a strong preference for pilot projects that can demonstrate that they will primarily benefit low-income individuals or veterans.For purposes of the Pilot Program, health care providers can determine whether a patient is considered low-income by determining whether (1) the patient is eligible for Medicaid or (2) the patient’s household income is at or below 135% of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Federal Poverty Guidelines.Health care providers may determine whether a patient qualifies as a veteran for purposes of the Pilot Program by confirming that the patient qualifies for health care through the VA.The Commission expects that pilot projects focused on serving veterans will primarily focus on veteran populations that are more likely to experience issues accessing health care.For additional information on the criteria for low-income and veteran patients, please see paragraphs 51-53 of the Report and Order.

ELIGIBLE SERVICES AND FUNDING LEVEL

  1. What funding level is provided?

The Pilot Program will fund 85% of the costs of eligible items. Participating health care providers must pay 15% of the costs of eligible items and must also pay for any ineligible items that are not covered under the program. The health care provider’s required 15% share of the costs of eligible items must be paid from eligible sources (e.g., eligible health care provider, participating patients, or state, federal, or Tribal funding or grants). The health care provider’s required 15% share of the eligible costs cannot be paid from ineligible sources (e.g., direct payments from vendors or service providers).

  1. What services are eligible for Connected Care Pilot Program funding?

The Pilot Program will fund 85% of the qualifying costs incurred by eligible health care providers. These costs include: (1) patient broadband Internet access services, (2) health care provider broadband data connections, (3) other connected care information services, and (4) certain network equipment.

  1. What are examples of eligible services?
  • Patient Broadband Internet Access Services/Health Care Provider Broadband Data Connections
    • New or upgraded broadband connections (whether for health care provider or participating patients) necessary for connected care services for the Pilot Program.
      • Broadband Connections Include:
        • Digital Subscriber Line
        • Cable Modem
        • Other Copper Wireline
        • Optical Carrier/Fiber to the End-User
        • Terrestrial Fixed Wireless
        • Mobile Wireless (3G, LTE, 4G, 5G)
        • Satellite
        • Broadband over Power line
    • Health care providers requesting support for broadband services can also receive support for costs of internet security firewall services typically provided by the broadband service provider that are necessary to protect personally identifiable information (PII) and other sensitive patient information within the confines of the Pilot Program.
  • Other Connected Care Information Services
    • Services for connected care that capture, transmit (including video visits), and store health care data for connected care.  This includes information services with “store-and-forward” technology, patient reported outcome platforms, and remote patient monitoring platforms and other telehealth platforms used to provide connected care services.
      • Examples include, but are not limited to:
        • HIPAA compliant (or requirement waived) telehealth solutions, packages, platforms, or suites of services that facilitate the capturing, storing, and transmitting of health care data between health care provider and patient for purposes of connected care services.  
        • HIPAA compliant (or requirement waived) telehealth video services that transmit health care data between health care provider and patients for purposes of connected care services. 
        • One-time, annual or recurring monthly costs for telehealth information services necessary to provide connected care. 
        • Licenses, subscriptions, or recurring charges necessary for health care providers to access or use eligible connected care information services that capture, transmit (including video visits), or store health care data for connected care.
        • Implementation and integration costs necessary to integrate Pilot Program eligible services used to provide connected care services through the Pilot Program.  This includes costs necessary to integrate existing electronic health records or electronic medical records systems with Pilot-supported information services. 
  • Network Equipment
    • Certain network equipment necessary to make newly acquired or upgraded Internet service for the patient or health care provider for the Pilot Program functional (e.g., routers) or necessary to manage, control, or operate a supported broadband service.
      • Examples include, but are not limited to:
        • Equipment that terminates a carrier’s or other provider’s transmission facility and any router/switch that is directly connected to either the facility or the terminating equipment.   This includes routers at the health care provider premises or routers for use at participating patient residences.
        • Costs of engineering, furnishing (i.e., as delivered from the manufacturer), and installing eligible network equipment.
        • Servers used exclusively for eligible broadband services.
        • Routers (including at patient’s home).
        • Switches.
  • Miscellaneous Costs
    • Various miscellaneous costs associated with eligible services listed above may be eligible for support.  Applicants should request eligible miscellaneous services in the same category as the associated service being obtained or installed. 
      • Examples include, but are not limited to:
        • Installation, Activation, and Initial Configuration.
        • Fees and charges that are a necessary component of an eligible service, such as shipping charges, taxes, surcharges, and other reasonable charges incurred in obtaining an eligible product or service.
  1. Are there any limits on requesting broadband service for patients?

To ensure that funding for patient broadband Internet access service is targeted appropriately, Pilot Program applicants seeking support for patient broadband Internet access service must identify the estimated number of patient broadband connections that the health care provider intends to purchase for purposes of providing connected care services to patients who lack broadband service or have insufficient broadband services. A health care provider seeking funding for patient broadband Internet access service must also explain in its application how it plans to assess whether a patient lacks broadband service or has insufficient broadband Internet access service for the proposed connected care service based on speed, technology (e.g., fixed or mobile broadband), or other appropriate service characteristics.  Patient broadband service funded through the Pilot must be primarily used for activities that are integral, immediate, and proximate to the provision of connected care services to participating patients.

  1. Are end-user devices, medical equipment or medical supplies eligible for support?

No.  The Connected Care Pilot Program will not fund end-user devices (e.g., computers, cellphones, remote patient monitoring devices), medical equipment or medical supplies.

  1. Are personnel, IT, administrative, and training costs eligible for support?

No.  Funding will not be provided for personnel costs (including but not limited to costs for IT staff, project managers, or medical professionals), marketing costs, administrative expenses, or training costs.  Vendors and service providers can elect to provide training and other IT support at no cost to health care providers participating in the program. 

  1. Will you fund the building of websites or the development of new platforms for providing connected care services?

No.  Only the eligible costs of connected care services may be funded by the Connected Care Pilot Program; the program is not intended to fund development of new websites, systems, or platforms.   

  1. Are retroactive costs eligible for funding?

 The Connected Care Pilot Program will fund only the prospective costs of eligible connected care services. 

APPLICATION SELECTION PROCESS

  1. How will the Commission select projects?

The Commission will evaluate applications and select projects based on applicants’ responses to the information requested on the Connected Care Pilot Program application.  Because the Connected Care Pilot Program is intended to help defray eligible health care providers’ costs of providing connected care services, particularly for low-income Americans and veterans, the Commission will have a strong preference for pilot projects that can demonstrate that they will primarily benefit low-income individuals or veterans.  The Commission will also consider whether the applicant has successfully developed, coordinated, or otherwise implemented a telehealth program, and presents a well-defined plan for meeting the health care needs of participating patients, with a particular emphasis on eligible low-income and veteran patients.  The Commission also has an interest in selecting diverse pilot projects and targeting funding towards geographic areas and populations most in need of Universal Service Fund (USF) support for connected care services.

  1. How many pilot projects will the Commission select to participate in the Connected Care Pilot Program?

The Commission has not set a limit on the number of pilot projects selected for the Connected Care Pilot Program or the amount of support requested per pilot project.

  1. Is there a limit on how much funding health care providers can receive?

The Commission has not set a limit or an amount of support requested per pilot project.  However, the Commission does not anticipate expending the entire Connected Care Pilot Program budget on one or two large projects. 

  1. How will funding amount determinations be made?
    In selecting projects, the Commission will take into account the estimated project budgets for eligible services and network equipment.  Selection of a project does not guarantee the project will receive a specific funding amount.  After being notified of their selection, and selecting vendors for eligible items, selected pilot projects will submit a funding request to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) via the FCC Form 462 (Request for Funding).  USAC will review the funding requests and issue a funding commitment for the eligible services and network equipment the pilot project plans to purchase with program funding. 

 PROCUREMENT REQUIREMENTS

  1. Are there any specific procurement requirements?

Yes. Participants of the Connected Care Pilot Program will be required to conduct a competitive procurement process to solicit and select eligible services and/or equipment.  Applicants will be required to follow the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program’s competitive bidding requirements, which include submitting a Request for Services Form (FCC Form 461) and Request for Proposal (RFP) (as applicable) for 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.”  Gifts from service providers will also be prohibited.

Health care providers can seek bids for multi-year or single-year contracts during the competitive bidding process. If a health care provider only seeks bids for a single-year contract, it will need to conduct a new competitive bidding process for each year of the Pilot Program. The competitive bidding requirements for the Pilot Program are in addition to and do not supplant any applicable state or local procurement requirements.

  1. Are there any competitive bidding exemptions?

Yes.  Similar to the competitive bidding exemptions provided under the Healthcare Connect Fund Program, eligible health care providers participating in the Connected Care Pilot Program will not be required to seek competitive bids if:

  • The eligible health care provider seeks support for services and equipment purchased from Master Services Agreements (MSAs) negotiated by federal, state, Tribal, or local government entities on behalf of such health care providers and others, if such MSAs were awarded pursuant to applicable federal, state, Tribal, or local competitive bidding requirements;
  • The eligible health care provider opts into an existing MSA approved under the Rural Health Care Pilot Program or Healthcare Connect Fund Program and seeks support for services and equipment purchased from the MSA, if the MSA was developed and negotiated in response to an RFP that specifically solicited proposals that included a mechanism for adding additional sites to the MSA;
  • The eligible health care provider has a multi-year contract designated as “evergreen” by USAC and seeks to exercise a voluntary option to extend an evergreen contract without undergoing additional competitive bidding;
  • The eligible health care provider is in a consortium with participants in the schools and libraries universal service support program (E-Rate program) and a party to the consortium’s existing contract, if the contract was approved in the E-Rate program as a master contract;
  • The eligible health care provider seeks support for $10,000 or less of total undiscounted eligible expenses for a single year, if the term of the contract is one year or less; or
  • The eligible health care provider already has entered into a legally binding agreement with a service provider for services or equipment eligible for support in the Pilot Program and that legally binding agreement itself was the product of competitive bidding.  (Note:  This exemption only applies to the Pilot program and is intended to be limited to situations where a participating health care provider intends to rely on or expand an existing competitively bid contract for purposes of participating in the Pilot Program.  Health care providers should not rely on this exemption to enter into new contracts solely for purposes of purchasing eligible items through the Pilot Program). 
  1. Will FCC staff make vendor recommendations or put vendors into contact with eligible health care providers who apply for funding?

Eligible health care providers select the specific eligible services and network equipment and the vendors for those services and network equipment. 

REIMBURSEMENT PROCESS

  1. Will health care providers receive payment for eligible services and network equipment?

The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) will issue payments for eligible items to service providers, not to health care providers.  Health care providers will receive a discount on their bill for eligible services or network equipment. 

  1. How will service providers be reimbursed for eligible services provided to selected participants?

After providing the eligible services and/or equipment, service providers, in conjunction with the participating health care providers, will be required to make certain certifications and then submit invoicing forms (Request for Disbursement—FCC Form 463) on a monthly basis and supporting documentation to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) to receive reimbursement for the cost of the eligible services and/or equipment they have provided to participating health care providers under the Pilot Program.  USAC will review the monthly invoicing forms and supporting documentation and issue disbursements to the applicable service providers or vendors, whether a broadband service provider, or other provider.

  1. When and how will funding commitments be determined and issued?

Pilot Program participants will be required to submit a Request for Funding (FCC Form 462) to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) no later than six months after the selection date with specific pricing and service information for the funding they are requesting through the Pilot Program. Participating health care providers with multi-year contracts may submit a single funding request for the full period covered by the contract.  However, the Commission anticipates that USAC will issue funding commitments for one year at a time.  The funding will be disbursed by USAC to the service provider and the health care provider will receive a discount on its bill. USAC will review the funding requests and issue funding commitment letters to the participating health care providers and service providers indicating the amount committed under the Pilot Program for the selected pilot project.

ADMINISTRATION AND REPORTING

  1. Who will administer the program?

The Commission will select the projects, and the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) will administer the program.

  1. Are there reporting requirements associated with Connected Care Pilot Program funds?

Participating health care providers will be required to submit periodically anonymized, aggregated data to the Bureau regarding their pilot project after each year of funding for that pilot project.  Examples of the types of metrics that the Commission is contemplating for pilot projects, includes: reductions in emergency room or urgent care visits in a particular geographic area or among a certain class of patients; decreases in hospital admissions or re-admissions for a certain patient group; condition-specific outcomes such as reductions in premature births or acute incidents among sufferers of a chronic illness; and patient satisfaction as to health status.  However, the scope of the pilot project proposals is unknown at this time, and some metrics may not be applicable to all of the selected pilot projects. 

The specific data to be reported by pilot projects and the format of the required data after review of the pilot project proposals, will be determined and announced by the Bureau in a public order or notice at a later date.  The participating health care providers will also be required to submit final reports within six months of the end dates of their pilot projects summarizing the final results, and explaining whether the pilot projects met their stated goals and the goals of the Pilot Program. 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

  1. Who can I contact for additional information?

You may contact  ConnectedCare@fcc.gov for questions or inquiries about the Connected Care Pilot Program.

 

 

Bureau/Office: 

Updated: 
Thursday, November 12, 2020