Two Important HHS Provider Relief Fund Updates - New Funds Available and Reporting Deadline Grace Period

Published in Government Relations on September 17, 2021

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced 2 important updates (https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2021/09/10/hhs-announces-the-availability-of-25-point-5-billion-in-covid-19-provider-funding.html) regarding the HHS Provider Relief Fund (PRF).

  1. An additional $25.5B in funding will be made available to eligible providers beginning September 29th. The funding will be available through 2 different source. $8.5B dollars will be made available through the American Rescue Plan, and an additional $17B has been added to create Phase 4 of the PRF. This additional $25.5B will be made available to providers who continue to experience pandemic related expenses and/or lost revenues. According to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, the “funding will be distributed with an eye towards equity, to ensure providers who serve our most vulnerable communities will receive the support they need." According to the HHS website, “Phase 4 payments will be based on providers' lost revenues and expenditures between July 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021. As part of the Biden-Harris Administration's ongoing commitment to equity, and to support providers with the most need, PRF Phase 4 will reimburse smaller providers—who tend to operate on thin margins and often serve vulnerable or isolated communities—for their lost revenues and COVID-19 expenses at a higher rate compared to larger providers. PRF Phase 4 will also include bonus payments for providers who serve Medicaid, CHIP, and/or Medicare patients, who tend to be lower income and have greater and more complex medical needs. HRSA will price these bonus payments at the generally higher Medicare rates to ensure equity for those serving low-income children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and seniors.” While the new funding is available through 2 separate sources, HHS has said that providers will be able to apply for both programs via one application. HRSA will use existing Medicaid, CHIP and Medicare claims data in calculating payments. Again, the application portal will open on September 29, 2021. To help ensure that these provider relief funds are used for patient care, PRF recipients will be required to notify the HHS Secretary of any merger with, or acquisition of, another health care provider during the period in which they can use the payments. Providers who report a merger or acquisition may be more likely to be audited to confirm their funds were used for coronavirus-related costs.
  1. An extension of the September 30th deadline for the first reporting window. Because of the challenges which providers continue to face as a result of some natural disasters as well as the Delta variant of COVID-19, HHS has announced a 60-day grace period to help providers come into compliance with the reporting requirements of the PRF. Providers who are required to report in this first reporting window, which has a deadline of September 30th, are still encouraged to do all they can to meet that September 30th deadline. However, should they fail to meet that deadline, they will be granted that additional 60 days. While the deadlines to use funds and the Reporting Time Period will not change, HHS will not initiate collection activities or other enforcement actions for noncompliant providers until after the 60 day grace period has passed.

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