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HHS announces $20 billion in new relief funding but there will be no legislation before the election

Eligible providers will get payment of 2% of annual revenue from patient care plus an add-on payment.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

New COVID-19 relief funding is being released. (Image by Silas Camargo Silão from Pixabay) New COVID-19 relief funding is being released. (Image by Silas Camargo Silão from Pixabay)

The Trump Administration has announced $20 billion in new funding for providers fighting COVID-19, but the president has ended negotiations with Democratic leaders over a new relief package until after the November 3 election.

Eligible providers will get payment of 2% of annual revenue from patient care plus an add-on payment to account for revenue losses and expenses attributable to COVID-19.

Providers that have already received provider relief fund payments will be invited to apply for additional funding that considers financial losses and changes in operating expenses caused by the coronavirus. 

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Previously ineligible providers, such as those who began practicing in 2020, will also be invited to apply, and an expanded group of behavioral health providers will also be eligible for relief payments.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Providers will have through November 6 to apply, but the Department of Health and Human Services is urging all eligible providers to apply early and not wait until the last day or week of the application period. 

Applying early will help to expedite HHS's review process and payment calculations, and ultimately accelerate the distribution of all payments. HHS said it recognizes that many providers continue to struggle financially from COVID-19's impact. 

Behavioral health providers invested in telehealth after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services allowed new telehealth flexibilities. Working with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Health Resources and Services Administration has developed a list of the nation's behavioral health providers now eligible for funding, which includes addiction counseling centers, mental health counselors and psychiatrists.

PAYMENT METHODOLOGY

All submissions will be reviewed to confirm they have received a provider relief fund payment equal to approximately 2% of patient care revenue from prior general distributions. Applicants that have not yet received such a payment will receive funding that equals 2% of patient care revenue.

An equitable add-on payment will consider a provider's change in operating revenues from patient care and including expenses incurred related to coronavirus and payments already received through prior distributions.

THE LARGER TREND

HHS has issued an estimated $175 billion in relief funding to providers through prior distributions. 

Trump has blamed House Speaker Pelosi for the failure to reach a new agreement on coronavirus relief legislation while Democrats blame the president. Previous legislative relief discussions have fallen through due to the two sides being billions of dollars apart.

ON THE RECORD

"HHS has worked to ensure that all American healthcare providers receive support from the Provider Relief Fund in a fast and fair way, and this new round helps ensure that we are reaching America's essential behavioral health providers and takes into account losses and expenses relating to coronavirus," said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. 

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) said, "President Trump is turning his back on the American people in their hour of greatest need. Families are going hungry and losing their homes. More than 210,000 Americans have died of the virus, and cases are rising across the country. Our economy is in a deep recession. Yet the President is walking away from efforts to provide folks who are struggling with the relief they need to survive."
 
Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com