- A second round of the $100 billion in hospital funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act will go out later this week and include providers excluded from the $30 billion first round, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said during a press call Wednesday.
- It's unclear how much money will go out or to which health systems, but the agency is looking at hospitals in COVID-19 hot spots, such as New York City. The first round was based on Medicare payments and the second "will address all providers and make sure those that may not have been addressed in the first round will be addressed in the second round," Verma said.
- The agency is also monitoring how rollbacks of certain regulations, such as telehealth standards, are faring, and whether to make temporary waivers permanent, although it doesn't plan to assess that fully until after the pandemic.
Both hospitals treating COVID-19 patients and physician practices that have closed to maintain social distancing are suffering financially. Hospitals in hotspots have increased expenditures for personal protective equipment, beds and other gear to expand capacity. Facilities have also moved their practices online and put off lucrative elective procedures.
The CARES Act funding comes in the form of grants, and is separate from the accelerated Medicare payments that providers will have to pay back.
Getting the first round out as fast as possible was a priority, Verma said, and "using Medicare reimbursement was the fastest way because we have that data."
This week's funding round looks at "providers across the board, whether they serve Medicare patients, Medicaid or private insurers, to make sure that all providers across the country are addressed," Verma said.
The American Medical Association, along with other physicians groups, wrote to congressional leaders Wednesday in regard to the funding. While calling the CARES Act as "a meaningful step in preserving the health care infrastructure during today's crisis and beyond," the letter urges leaders to "take additional steps to protect patient access to care by preserving the viability of physician practices as part of the nation's essential health care system."
The group asked lawmakers to consider supplemental measures addressing financial burdens healthcare providers are facing, such as adjusting Medicare and Medicaid payment provisions for providers unable to repay the accelerated payments.
Expanding small business loans and eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program is another way to keep financially battered practices afloat. According to the letter, larger physician practices with more than one location but with 500 employees or fewer per location are currently ineligible for the PPP.
AMA wants Congress to include provisions to apply the same exception to physician practices that applies to the accommodation and food services industry for operating at more than one physical location with 500 or fewer employees per location.
During Wednesday's press call, Verma addressed the similarities between the restaurant industry and healthcare industry's financial woes.
"There are providers across the country that aren't able to work, very much like our restaurants and entertainment industry, large segments of the healthcare industry aren't able to provide services they normally would," Verma said. "It's having a financial impact on both sides. In this next tranche, we're trying to address that."