During the height of the pandemic in the first half of 2020, Provider Relief Funds (PRF) the federal government began distributing helped ease the large financial hit hospitals experienced. The funding was staggered, and in some cases depended on metrics such as the rate of hospital admissions over a certain time period. Hospitals whose case counts didn’t fall within the specific dates set by U.S. Health & Human Services (HHS) sometimes saw their funding relief delayed until the next tranche of funding.
Now a new deadline related to the Provider Relief Fund is causing concern. HHS recently extended the deadline for use of PRF funds, but only those received after June 30, 2020. The deadline remains June 30, 2021, for any PRF funds received from April 10, 2020, through June 30, 2020. Last week, the American Hospital Association wrote a letter
to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra asking that all providers be allowed to keep and expend PRF distributions through the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency or June 30, 2022 – whichever comes later.
AHA said setting a deadline for expending funds based only on when the money was first received harms some facilities. As an example, AHA wrote, “HHS made a $10 billion distribution to hospitals serving high numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients in early June 2020; these providers must spend these funds by June 30, 2021. It made a $3 billion distribution to additional hospitals serving high numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients in mid-July 2020; these providers have until December 31, 2021, to spend these funds. These payments were made to similar providers only about one month apart, yet one group has six months less to spend the funding.”
The extended deadline is important, AHA wrote, because hospitals are still battling COVID-19, are still assisting states in vaccination efforts, and are still facing worker burnout questions, facility reconfigurations and more – all of which fall under the guidelines for use of PRF funding.
“Hospitals and health systems must be able to apply their PRF money toward these costs, which they will undoubtedly continue to incur beyond June 30 and through the end of the PHE, without regard to when the funds were originally received,” AHA wrote.
In a related development, MHA recently sent a letter to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) outlining concerns about how HRSA is determining expenses and revenues as they relate to distributions from the Provider Relief Fund (PRF). MHA also called on HRSA to show flexibility when making its calculations to account for the fact that various hospitals use different end dates for their fiscal years, which affects the “lost-revenue” calculations HRSA employs. MHA said HRSA’s actions were especially detrimental to disproportionate share hospitals.