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HHS Announces $25.5 Billion in COVID-19 Provider Funding

  • Combined application for American Rescue Plan rural funding and Provider Relief Fund Phase 4 will open on September 29

The Biden Administration announced Friday, September 10, that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), is making $25.5 billion in new funding available for health care providers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding includes $8.5 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) resources for providers who serve rural Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or Medicare patients, and an additional $17 billion for Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Phase 4 for a broad range of providers who can document revenue loss and expenses associated with the pandemic.

“Home health and hospice will have an opportunity to tap these new funds,” says NAHC President William A. Dombi. “Our concern is that non-Medicare, non-Medicaid home care is still not included. We have been pushing for their inclusion for months, but have seen no movement on such. These are primarily the home care companies that do home care aide services that are private pay along with VA or Area Agency on Aging  funded.”

“This funding critically helps health care providers who have endured demanding workloads and significant financial strains amidst the pandemic,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “The funding will be distributed with an eye towards equity, to ensure providers who serve our most vulnerable communities will receive the support they need.”

Consistent with the requirements included in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020, PRF Phase 4 payments will be based on providers’ lost revenues and expenditures between July 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021. PRF Phase 4 will reimburse smaller providers—who tend to operate on thin margins and often serve vulnerable or isolated communities—for their lost revenues and COVID-19 expenses at a higher rate compared to larger providers.

 Who Is Eligible To Apply and How Will Payments Be Calculated?

Phase 4 General Distribution: Consistent with the requirements included in the December appropriations bill, PRF Phase 4 payments will be based on providers’ lost revenues and increased expenditures between July 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021. Phase 4 will also include new elements specifically focused on equity, including reimbursing smaller providers for their lost revenues and COVID-19 expenses at a higher rate compared to larger providers, and bonus payments based on the amount of services providers furnish to Medicaid/CHIP and Medicare patient.

  • 75% of the Phase 4 allocation will calculated based on revenue losses and COVID-related expenses.
    • Large providers will receive a minimum payment amount that is based on a percentage of their lost revenues and COVID-related expenses.
    • Medium and small providers will receive a base payment plus a supplement, with small providers receiving the highest supplement, as smaller providers tend to operate on thin margins and often serve vulnerable or isolated communities.
    • HHS will determine the exact amount of the base payments and supplements after analyzing data from all the applications received to ensure we stay within our budget and funds are distributed equitably.
    • No provider will receive a Phase 4 payment that exceeds 100% of their losses and expenses.
    • HHS will continue to use risk mitigation and cost containment measures in Phase 4 to protect program integrity and preserve taxpayer dollars.
  • 25% of the Phase 4 allocation will be put towards bonus payments that are based on the amount and type of services provided to Medicaid, CHIP, and Medicare patients.
    • HHS will price Medicaid and CHIP claims data at Medicare rates, with some limited exceptions for some services provided predominantly in Medicaid and CHIP.
    • Providers who serve any patients living in Federal Office of Rural Health Policy-defined rural areas with Medicaid, CHIP, or Medicare coverage, and who otherwise meet the eligibility criteria, will receive a minimum payment.

ARP Rural Distribution: Providers who serve Medicaid, CHIP, and Medicare patients who live in rural communities are eligible for the ARP Rural payments.

  • HHS will make payments to providers based on the amount and type of Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) services provided to rural patients.
    • HHS will price Medicaid and CHIP claims data at Medicare rates, with some limited exceptions for some services provided predominantly in Medicaid and CHIP.
    • Providers who serve any patients living in Federal Office of Rural Health Policy-defined rural areas with Medicaid, CHIP, or Medicare coverage, and who otherwise meet the eligibility criteria, will receive a minimum payment.

Terms and Conditions: To help ensure that these provider funds are used for patient care, PRF recipients will be required to notify the HHS Secretary of any merger with or acquisition of another healthcare provider during their Payment Received Period. Providers who report a merger or acquisition may be more likely to be audited to confirm their funds were used for coronavirus-related costs, consistent with an overall risk-based audit strategy.

PRF Phase 4 will also include bonus payments for providers who serve Medicaid, CHIP, and/or Medicare patients, who tend to be lower income and have greater and more complex medical needs. HRSA will price these bonus payments at the generally higher Medicare rates to ensure equity for those serving low-income children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and seniors.

Similarly, HRSA will make ARP rural payments to providers based on the amount of Medicaid, CHIP and/or Medicare services they provide to patients who live in rural areas as defined by the HHS Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. As rural providers serve a disproportionate number of Medicaid and CHIP patients who often have disproportionately greater and more complex medical needs, many rural communities have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. Accordingly, ARP rural payments will also generally be based on Medicare reimbursement rates.

In order to expedite and streamline the application process and minimize administrative burdens, providers will apply for both programs in a single application. HRSA will use existing Medicaid, CHIP and Medicare claims data in calculating payments. The application portal will open on September 29, 2021. To help ensure that these provider relief funds are used for patient care, PRF recipients will be required to notify the HHS Secretary of any merger with, or acquisition of, another health care provider during the period in which they can use the payments. Providers who report a merger or acquisition may be more likely to be audited to confirm their funds were used for coronavirus-related costs, consistent with an overall risk-based audit strategy.

“We know that this funding is critical for health care providers across the country, especially as they confront new coronavirus-related challenges and respond to natural disasters,” said Acting HRSA Administrator Diana Espinosa. “We are committed to distributing this funding as equitably and transparently as possible to help providers respond to and ultimately defeat this pandemic.”

To promote transparency in the PRF program, HHS is also releasing detailed information – PDF (PDF – 175 KB) about the methodology utilized to calculate PRF Phase 3 payments. Providers who believe their PRF Phase 3 payment was not calculated correctly according to this methodology will now have an opportunity to request a reconsideration. Further details on the PRF Phase 3 reconsideration process are forthcoming.

Additionally, in light of the challenges providers across the country are facing due to recent natural disasters and the Delta variant, HHS is announcing today a final 60-day grace period to help providers come into compliance with their PRF Reporting requirements if they fail to meet the deadline on September 30, 2021, for the first PRF Reporting Time Period. While the deadlines to use funds and the Reporting Time Period will not change, HHS will not initiate collection activities or similar enforcement actions for noncompliant providers during this grace period.

For more information about eligibility requirements, the documents and information providers will need to complete their application, and the application process for PRF Phase 4 and ARP Rural payments, visit: https://www.hrsa.gov/provider-relief/future-payments.

HHS Announces $25.5 Billion in COVID-19 Provider Funding

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CMS to Bolster Payments for At-Home COVID-19 Vaccinations for Medicare Beneficiaries

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced an additional payment amount for administering in-home COVID-19 vaccinations to Medicare beneficiaries who have difficulty leaving their homes or are otherwise hard-to-reach.

There are approximately 1.6 million adults 65 or older who may have trouble accessing COVID-19 vaccinations because they have difficulty leaving home.

To better serve Medicare beneficiaries who have great difficulty leaving their homes or face a taxing effort getting around their communities easily to access vaccination in these settings, Medicare will pay an additional $35 per dose for COVID-19 vaccine administration in a beneficiary’s home, increasing the total payment amount for at-home vaccination from approximately $40 to approximately $75 per vaccine dose. For a two-dose vaccine, this results in a total payment of approximately $150 for the administration of both doses, or approximately $70 more than the current rate.

“This is a very positive step forward. We thank the White House and CMS for the productive discussions on vaccinating homebound patients in the past few weeks,” said NAHC President Bill Dombi, in reaction to the news. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with them in getting vaccines to a very vulnerable group of individuals who cannot otherwise secure the life-saving Covid vaccines.”

Said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-Lasure: “CMS is committed to meeting the unique needs of Medicare consumers and their communities – particularly those who are home bound or who have trouble getting to a vaccination site. That’s why we’re acting today to expand the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine to people with Medicare  at home. We’re committed to taking action wherever barriers exist and bringing the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic to the door of older adults and other individuals covered by Medicare who still need protection.”

Delivering COVID-19 vaccination to access-challenged and hard-to-reach individuals poses some unique challenges, such as ensuring appropriate vaccine storage temperatures, handling, and administration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has outlined guidance to assist vaccinators in overcoming these challenges. Today’s announcement now helps to address the financial burden associated with accommodating these complications.

The additional payment amount also accounts for the clinical time needed to monitor a beneficiary after the vaccine is administered, as well as the upfront costs associated with administering the vaccine safely and appropriately in a beneficiary’s home. The payment rate for administering each dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as the additional in-home payment amount, will be geographically adjusted based on where the service is furnished.

How to Find a COVID-19 Vaccine

As today’s action demonstrates, a person’s ability to leave their home should not be an obstacle to getting the COVID-19 vaccine. As states and the federal government continue to break down barriers – like where vaccines can be administered – resources for connecting communities to vaccination options remain key. Unvaccinated individuals and those looking to assist friends and family can:

  1. Visit vaccines.gov (English) or vacunas.gov (Spanish) to search for vaccines nearby.
  2. Text GETVAX (438829) for English or VACUNA (822862) for Spanish for near-instant access to details on three vaccine sites in the local area.
  3. Call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline at 1-800-232-0233 (TTY: 1-888-720-7489) for assistance in English and Spanish.

Coverage of COVID-19 Vaccines

The federal government is providing the COVID-19 vaccine free of charge or with no cost-sharing for all people living in the United States. As a condition of receiving free COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government, vaccine providers cannot charge patients any amount for administering the vaccine.

Because no patient can be billed for COVID-19 vaccinations, CMS and its partners have provided a variety of information online for providers vaccinating all Americans regardless of their insurance status:

  • Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage: Beneficiaries with Medicare pay nothing for COVID-19 vaccines or their administration, and there is no applicable copayment, coinsurance or deductible.
  • Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP):State Medicaid and CHIP agencies must cover COVID-19 vaccine administration with no cost sharing for nearly all beneficiaries during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) and for over a year after it ends. For the very limited number of Medicaid beneficiaries who are not eligible for this coverage (and do not receive it through other coverage they might have), providers may submit claims for reimbursement for administering the COVID-19 vaccine to underinsured individuals through the COVID-19 Coverage Assistance Fund, administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), as discussed below. Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP), signed by President Biden on March 11, 2021, the federal matching percentage for state Medicaid and CHIP expenditures on COVID-19 vaccine administration is currently 100% (as of April 1, 2021), and will remain 100% for more than a year after the COVID-19 PHE ends. The ARP also expands coverage of COVID-19 vaccine administration under Medicaid and CHIP to additional eligibility groups. CMS recently updated the Medicaid vaccine toolkit to reflect the enactment of the ARP at https://www.medicaid.gov/state-resource-center/downloads/covid-19-vaccine-toolkit.pdf.
  • Private Plans: The vaccine is free for people enrolled in private health plans and issuers COVID-19 vaccine and its administration is covered without cost sharing for most enrollees, and such coverage must be provided both in-network and out-of-network during the PHE. Current regulations provide that out-of-network rates must be reasonable as compared to prevailing market rates, and the rules reference using the Medicare payment rates as a potential guideline for insurance companies. In light of CMS’s increased Medicare payment rates, CMS will expect health insurance issuers and group health plans to continue to ensure their rates are reasonable when compared to prevailing market rates. Under the conditions of participation in the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program, providers cannot charge plan enrollees any administration fee or cost sharing, regardless of whether the COVID-19 vaccine is administered in-network or out-of-network.

The federal government is providing free access to COVID-19 vaccines for every adult living in the United States. For individuals who are underinsured, providers may submit claims for reimbursement for administering the COVID-19 vaccine through the COVID-19 Coverage Assistance Fund administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) after the claim to the individual’s health plan for payment has been denied or only partially paid. Information is available at https://www.hrsa.gov/covid19-coverage-assistance.

For individuals who are uninsured, providers may submit claims for reimbursement for administering the COVID-19 vaccine to individuals without insurance through the Provider Relief Fund, administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Information on the COVID-19 Claims Reimbursement to Health Care Providers and Facilities for Testing, Treatment, and Vaccine Administration for the Uninsured Program is available at https://www.hrsa.gov/CovidUninsuredClaim.

More information on Medicare payment for COVID-19 vaccine administration – including a list of billing codes, payment allowances and effective dates – is available at https://www.cms.gov/medicare/covid-19/medicare-covid-19-vaccine-shot-payment.

More information regarding the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider Requirements and how the COVID-19 vaccine is provided through that program at no cost to recipients is available at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/vaccination-provider-support.html.

CMS to Bolster Payments for At-Home COVID-19 Vaccinations for Medicare Beneficiaries

CMS to hold special ODF on at-home COVID-19 Vaccinations for Medicare Beneficiaries. See below for more details The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced an additional payment amount for administering in-home COVID-19 vaccinations to Medicare beneficiaries who have difficulty leaving their homes or are otherwise hard-to-reach. There are approximately 1.6 million adults…