- HHS began distributing the third phase of COVID-19 relief funding for providers Wednesday, with $24.5 billion to go to more than 70,000 providers through the end of January.
- The amount exceeds the original $20 billion planned for this tranche as officials realized more would be needed to get providers close to whole from coronavirus-related losses. HHS said up to 88% of applicants' reported losses are being reimbursed.
- This phase opened applications up to providers who had previously received, or been rejected for, provider relief funds as well as behavioral health providers and those who began practicing between January and March of this year.
The funding announcement comes as Congress debates another COVID-19 relief bill, which could include additional money for providers. A bipartisan proposal put forward last week was endorsed by Democratic leadership and talks have continued this week.
It allocates another $35 billion for the Provider Relief Fund created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed in March. Congress allocated $175 billion to providers for the tranche in multiple pieces of legislation.
The first phase of $50 billion went broadly to Medicare fee-for-service providers in April in an attempt to get money out the door as quickly as possible. The $18 billion second phase required applications, and made Medicaid providers and dentists also eligible. It began distribution in June.
The PRF has also allocated money specifically for rural hospitals ($11.3 billion), facilities in high-impact areas ($22 billion), safety net hospitals ($12 billion) and nursing facilities ($7.4 billion). That leaves less than $30 billion not yet allocated.
While providers have said the funds are sorely needed to help them continue to operate, the funding distribution has encountered some criticism. Larger hospitals got significant funds and have in some cases still performed relatively well financially.
Operator HCA Healthcare, for example, wound up returning all $6 billion of the CARES funding and advanced Medicare payments it received.
There has also been frustration with some of the reporting requirements imposed on those applying for and receiving the money, although HHS rolled back one regulation considered among the most difficult.