UPDATE: June 24, 2021: AHA is asking for more flexibility in how hospitals can use the federal coronavirus relief funds. In a letter Wednesday, the group said it wanted hospitals that received money from the fund before June 30, 2020, to be able to use it through the end of the public health emergency.
AHA wrote that "the new guidance disadvantages certain providers without providing a clear policy rationale."
- HHS on Friday extended key deadlines for medical groups and hospitals to use money from the Provider Relief Fund established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act last year.
- Providers no longer have to use all funds by June 30. Deadlines will be based on when the money is received. Also, recipients will have 90 days to complete reporting, up from the 30 days previously allowed.
- Separately, HHS said Monday that 1.2 million people have signed up for health coverage on the Affordable Care Act exchanges during the special enrollment period declared for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Industry groups applauded the changes announced Friday, as providers have been asking HHS for a while for more flexibility in using the $178 billion in emergency relief funding Congress approved early in 2020. The Medical Group Management Association called the previous deadlines "arbitrary," while the American Hospital Association said the change "will help to ensure that hospitals and health systems can continue the battle against COVID-19 as cases persist."
In the early days of the pandemic, the money was sent out quickly and not necessarily targeted based on need. Later tranches were directed to hospitals in hotspots and in rural areas. But health systems have been frustrated recently by the lack of information on how and when the remaining billions in the fund will be distributed.
Under the new requirements, recipients will have to report for each period in which they received $10,000 or more, instead of reporting for $10,000 or more across all payment periods. Funds received in the first half of this year will need to be used by the end of June 2022 and those received in the second half of this year must be used by the end of 2022.
The announcement Monday of coverage gains under the special enrollment period included the information that four in 10 of those enrolling have premiums of $10 or less because of increased subsidies and tax credits under the American Rescue Plan.
"Americans want the peace of mind that comes with healthcare coverage," CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said Monday on a call with reporters. "These numbers demonstrate that when you make quality healthcare coverage affordable ... and reach people where they are, they sign up."
Of those who submitted an application to Healthcare.gov, 331,000 were deemed eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program.
The SEP runs through Aug. 15.