Blog | Coronavirus

Provider Relief Fund updates: First reporting deadline is imminent, and new distributions are going out to rural providers

Blog | Coronavirus

Provider Relief Fund updates: First reporting deadline is imminent, and new distributions are going out to rural providers

Providers have until Nov. 30 to report on their use of distributions received from the Provider Relief Fund during the first several months of the pandemic, while rural providers can expect to start receiving newly allocated payments.

As the deadline arrives for reporting on the first set of payments received through the Provider Relief Fund (PRF), the Biden administration has begun sending out new payments to rural providers.

Nov. 30 is the deadline for reporting on use of any payments that totaled more than $10,000 and were received through June 30, 2020. Unused funds must be returned by Dec. 30. Failure to report as required could result in enforcement actions such as mandatory repayment or other debt collection activities.

The reporting deadline technically was Sept. 30, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offered a 60-day grace period before initiating enforcement actions.

Reporting takes place in the PRF reporting portal. There are technical resources available to help with last-minute questions, plus a help line (866-569-3522; TTY: 711).

Providers also should be getting ready to report on payments received during the second half of 2020. The deadline to use those funds is Dec. 31, 2021, and reporting takes place during the first three months of 2022.

Payments sent to rural providers

The Biden administration announced that $7.5 billion is in the process of being sent out to rural PRF applicants that serve Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program beneficiaries.

More than 40,000 providers will receive payments that range between $500 and $43 million, with an average amount of $170,700. Providers had five weeks starting Sept. 29 to apply for payments from a pool made available through the COVID-19 relief legislation known as the American Rescue Plan.

Payments were based on Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP claims for services furnished to rural beneficiaries between Jan. 1, 2019, and Sept. 30, 2020. “This period was chosen as it represents the most recent comprehensive data available to HHS and takes into account both pre-pandemic and pandemic operations,” while allowing for a streamlined application and payment process, HHS stated in a news release.

The payment calculations primarily were based on Medicare rates “to provide equitable relief” to providers that serve a disproportionate number of Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries, HHS stated.

Among the eligible uses of funding:

  • Salaries, recruitment and retention
  • Supplies (e.g., N95 or surgical masks)
  • Equipment (e.g., ventilators or improved filtration systems)
  • Capital investments
  • IT and related expenses for preventing, preparing for or responding to COVID-19

Upcoming distributions

HHS said it still has to process about 4% of more than 55,000 applications for the rural funding. Many of these “require more extensive review to ensure program integrity,” the agency stated.

In the next few weeks, HHS also plans to announce the first wave of payments from a $17 billion Phase 4 general distribution pool.

As part of the administration’s efforts to promote equity and support smaller providers, the Health Resources and Services Administration said it would reimburse smaller providers at a higher rate in the Phase 4 allocation. Specifically, medium and small providers will receive a supplementary payment that will be highest for small providers.

In addition, 25% of the distribution — about $4.25 billion — will be reserved for bonus payments to organizations based on the volume and type of services they provide to Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries.

Rural providers also are eligible for funding from the general distribution and could apply for both that and the rural allocation on a single form.

About the Author

Nick Hut

is a senior editor with HFMA, Westchester, Ill. (nhut@hfma.org).

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