HHS dedicates $35M for telehealth expansion in Title X family planning

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will send out $35 million in relief funding to improve the telehealth capabilities of family planning providers, the agency announced last week.

The funding, provided under the American Rescue Plan Act, will go to about 60 Title X family planning providers to enhance and expand telehealth services for their patients.

Title X family planning providers offer reproductive health care, including pregnancy testing and STI prevention services, for largely low-income patients.

Many Title X clinics have rolled out telehealth programs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But some clinics, especially those in low-income communities, may not have the resources to invest in telehealth.

“During the global COVID-19 pandemic, family planning programs have accelerated the use of telehealth,” said Rachel Levine, M.D., HHS assistant secretary for health, in a statement. “These ARP funds will facilitate the delivery of quality family planning services and reduce access barriers for people living in America who rely on the healthcare safety net for services.”

The Office of Population Affairs currently funds 71 Title X grantees supporting thousands of service sites, according to HHS.

The agency will accept grant applications through Feb. 3, 2022.

“I’ve seen first-hand the critical role that telehealth plays in serving communities, particularly to protect so many families from COVID-19. As providers transitioned from providing in-person primary care to offering telehealth services, we were able to test, vaccinate and act as lifelines to communities disproportionately hit by the pandemic. Increasing our investment and access to telehealth services remains critical,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement. “This investment is another step towards making telehealth available to all Americans.”

HHS also announced $7.5 billion in COVID-19 relief last week under the American Rescue Plan Act available for rural providers.

RELATED: HHS rolls out $7.5B in COVID-19 relief funds to rural providers

Rural providers have been hit harder than most during the pandemic. The CARES Act passed last year offered $178 billion in relief funding to all providers, but the grants were based on Medicare claims, whereas rural facilities often rely on other government programs like Medicaid.

While about 60 providers will receive grants specifically for telehealth services in Title X family planning, more than 40,000 rural providers will benefit from the $7.5 billion.

The grants will be based on Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program claims from Jan. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020.

“The infusion of these funds will be critical to ensuring rural communities maintain access to high-quality healthcare and addressing urgent needs like workforce recruitment and retention,” said Becerra in a statement about the news.