News | Coronavirus

Provider Relief Fund Phase 4 payments will be transmitted starting later this week, HHS announces

News | Coronavirus

Provider Relief Fund Phase 4 payments will be transmitted starting later this week, HHS announces

Dec. 16 update: The Health Resources and Services Administration announced that the Provider Relief Fund reporting portal is being reopened through Monday, Dec. 20 as an accommodation for providers that encountered technical glitches or other problems when attempting to report on their use of Phase 1 funds (distributions received through June 30, 2020). Providers should start by contacting the Provider Support Line (866-569-3522) to gain access to their report in the portal.
 
  • Provider Relief Fund Phase 4 payments will be made starting Dec. 16 to providers that applied and were deemed eligible.
  • HHS and HRSA sought to offer greater levels of compensation to smaller providers and those with disadvantageous payer mixes.
  • A new reporting requirement for the latest distribution is to inform HRSA of any merger or acquisition involving the recipient.

Distribution of the latest Provider Relief Fund allocation is imminent, with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) having finished calculating the amount that each eligible provider will receive.

About $9 billion in payments will be distributed beginning Thursday as part of a Phase 4 allocation. Applicants will receive electronic and printed communications regarding their payment determination.

The funding is based on COVID-19-related changes in operating revenues and expenses from July 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021 and can be used to recruit and retain staff, purchase supplies and modernize facilities, among other responses to the pandemic.

More than 69,000 providers will receive payments, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Average payments are $58,000 for small providers, $289,000 for medium providers and $1.7 million for large providers, the agency stated. (A database is available showing recipients and their payments through the earlier phases of the PRF, with Phase 4 payments to be added.)

HHS said about 75% of Phase 4 applications have been processed, with the remaining applications requiring “additional review as part of the risk mitigation and cost containment safeguards previously outlined in the Phase 4 methodology.”

As part of the Biden administration’s goal to promote health equity, HRSA previously said it would reimburse a higher percentage of losses and expenses for smaller providers and also make bonus payments based on the amount and type of services provided to Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries.

In late November, HRSA began distributing payments to rural providers from a separate $8.5 billion pool allocated by this year’s COVID-19 relief legislation. Eligible providers could apply for both that distribution and the Phase 4 general distribution.

Rules and regulations

Within 90 days of receiving a payment, recipients must use the PRF portal to sign an attestation confirming receipt and agreeing to the terms and conditions. One change to the terms and conditions for Phase 4 is the requirement to notify HHS about mergers and acquisitions involving the recipient and other providers. Such notification may subject the provider to an audit “to ensure relief funds are being used to address the financial impact of COVID-19,” HHS stated.

Recipients that choose to reject the funds also must complete the attestation and return their payment no more than 15 days later.

Key upcoming dates

For Phase 4 applications that remain to be processed, HRSA said it will complete its review and make payments in 2022.

The reporting period for Phase 2 payments begins Jan. 1 and runs through March 31. Providers must meet that deadline if they received more than $10,000 from the PRF between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2020. The deadline to use those funds is Dec. 31, 2021.

If providers did not meet the Nov. 30 reporting deadline for Phase 1 payments, they must return all funds from that distribution by Dec. 30, 2021. Failure to do so could subject them to recoupment and render them ineligible for future payments, including Phase 4 payments even if their application was approved.

About the Author

Nick Hut

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

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