- HHS is releasing a $20 billion traunch of COVID-19 relief funding for providers financially impacted by the pandemic, according to a Thursday statement. Providers who already received or rejected relief funds are eligible to apply for additional funding in this third phase.
- And HHS is broadening the range of providers eligible for funds this round, now including those who began practicing in January through March of this year. That includes dentists, assisted living facilities and behavioral health providers.
- Providers are eligible for relief funds equal to about 2% of their patient care revenue, along with add-on payments that consider past funding received and changes in operating revenues and operating expenses from patient care.
This marks the third round of payments to struggling providers amid the pandemic coming from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which allocated a sum $175 billion to hospitals and other healthcare providers.
This time around, HHS said its top priority is ensuring as many providers as possible get aid to help keep their operations afloat.
Previous rounds focused on getting the money out as fast as possible, including the first $30 billion that went out in April to hospitals based off their Medicare fee-for-service revenue.
That sparked concern about whether the distribution of funds went to those most in need and also whether the fine print deterred providers from taking a piece of the massive financial package.
HHS took a more targeted approach with its second round later that month, shelling out $20 billion to providers based on 2018 net patient service revenues. It also allocated $10 billion for providers in coronavirus hotspots, $10 billion for rural providers and $400 million for the Indian Health Service.
Critics said initial relief funds largely left out Medicaid providers, sparking HHS to earmark $15 billion specifically for them.
About $106 billion of the $175 billion initially earmarked in the CARES act for general distribution has gone out to providers as of Sept. 23, according to HHS. More than 525,000 providers have received anywhere from $1 to $300,000.
Additional relief bills that would allocate even more funding have stalled in Congress. However, a bill President Donald Trump signed into law Thursday to keep the government open until mid-December includes some provisions that could help providers' bottom lines.
The law delays the repayment date for advanced and accelerated Medicare loans, giving providers an additional year. Repayments for the earliest loan recipients were originally planned to start in late July. The bill also delays Medicaid payment cuts for disproportionate share hospitals.
HHS is urging eligible providers to apply for the third round of relief funding early, with applications open Monday through Nov. 6.
"Do not wait until the last day or week of the application period," HHS said in its statement. "Applying early will help to expedite HHS's review process and payment calculations, and ultimately accelerate the distribution of all payments."