House Dems Say There Are Issues with FCC Telehealth Program

Seek more transparency about applications still in process

Some legislators want the FCC to keep them better informed on how it is spending the $200 million that Congress allocated for telehealth in the CARES Act COVID-19 aid package, suggesting their have been some issues with the process. 

A spokesperson for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says the FCC has been administering the program transparently.

Democrats Frank Pallone (N.J.) and Mike Doyle (Pa.) wrote FCC chair Ajit Pai Friday (June 12), asking particularly about the health care providers who have applied but have not yet been approved. Various legislators wrote the FCC after providers in their states or districts sought money, urging it to give them all due consideration. 

“While the FCC has posted weekly updates of funding awards, we are troubled by the lack of transparency regarding the health care providers who have applied but have not yet received an award,” they wrote. “We have heard reports that many health care providers are facing issues obtaining funds, particularly those serving tribal lands. Similarly, health care providers report they have been unable to receive funding for some important telehealth equipment that we believe should be covered under the law.” 

The legislators want the following to be done by June 19. 

1. “On FCC’s public facing website, publish a docket that includes all of the applications the Commission has received for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program; 

2. Include information regarding applications that have been approved;

3. “For applications that have been approved, include information regarding the date on which funds were actually dispersed; and

4. “For applications that have been approved, include a summary of any uses or devices that were not approved for reimbursement.”

The FCC has so far given out 104.98 million for 305 health care providers in 42 states and Washington, D.C., as of this week. It has issued public notices for each batch of approvals, identifying to whom the money is going, and for what, including for a variety of devices, software, and service. 

We have received the letter and look forward to reviewing it,” said an FCC spokesperson. “However, the Commission has been administering this program in a transparent manner. We have been providing weekly announcements of all of the funding applications that have been approved along with the details of those approved telehealth projects provided by the applicants. Moreover, the Commission’s website contains a list of all of the approved applications sorted by state. Going forward, our focus has been and must continue to be on processing all of the applications quickly and carefully, an effort that could be undercut if we turn our attention to creating a new system for posting pending applications.”