HHS Begins Distributing Billions of Coronavirus Relief Funds to Healthcare Providers, HME Suppliers

On Friday, the department announced the disbursement of $30 billion to providers facing economic hurdles due to the pandemic. $70 billion remain in the CARES Act fund.

The majority of HME suppliers are eligible to receive coronavirus-related relief funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, which began distributing $30 billion on Friday to assist Medicare suppliers and providers who have lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Under the CARES Act stimulus package, HHS will draw from a $100 billion fund to distribute payments – not loans – to healthcare providers facing economic blows from the global crisis. The program is different from the accelerated payment program that was also included in the CARES package.

 

Thanks to input from the American Association for Homecare and the HME industry, HME suppliers are included in the definition of “eligible health care providers” because “all facilities and providers that received Medicare fee-for-service reimbursements in 2019 are eligible,” according to the CARES Act. Providers will receive a portion of the initial $30 billion based on their share of total Medicare FFS payments last year, which totaled $484 billion.

 

Gordon Barnes, AAHomecare’s senior director of communications, said in an email that some association members already reported receiving payments from HHS on Friday morning. VGM members also saw funds deposited in their accounts, according to a VGM Government Relations blog post.

 

Paula Vineyard, the operator of Elana Health and Loop Medical in Charleston, West Virginia, received an HHS email announcing the disbursement of funds and then saw the deposit in her business accounts. The two businesses employ 25 people, none of whom have been laid off as a result of the crisis.  

 

“We are extremely relieved, and this money props us for the next couple of months,” Vineyard said in a statement to VGM. “Most people think that since we are in healthcare we are busy, but in all actuality, business is down because referral sources are not operating as business as usual.”

 

The government partnered with UnitedHealth Group (UHG) to speed up payments to providers. All recipients of the relief fund must sign an attestation confirming receipt of the funds and agreeing to the terms and conditions of the payments within 30 days of receiving the deposit.

 

Those conditions include not seeking collection of out-of-pocket payments from a COVID-19 patient that are higher than what the patient would have been required to pay if their care had been provided by an in-network provider. The attestation will be available on the HHS website starting next week.

 

The remaining $70 billion in the HHS fund will “focus on providers in areas particularly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, rural providers, providers of services with lower shares of Medicare reimbursement or who predominantly service the Medicare population, and providers requesting reimbursement for the treatment of uninsured Americans,” according to the HHS website.

 

An announcement regarding the remaining payments should be made in the next 10 days, according to Barnes, who encouraged HME suppliers to thank senators and representatives for passing the CARES Act.

About the Author

Haley Samsel is the Associate Content Editor of HME Business and Mobility Management.

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