Provider Relief Funds – Time is Running Out
By Darlene Angelucci, Director, Assurance Services
Congress authorized approximately $178 billion in provider relief funds (PRF) to assist healthcare providers in covering expenses and lost revenue due to the COVID pandemic. Relief funds are required to be utilized by providers by June 30, 2021. A further challenge is that providers have limited options as to how the funds may be used. Such restrictions may have hampered recipients’ ability to fully utilize their PRF awards.
In response to the fast-approaching deadline, on May 11, 2021, Representatives Cindy Anxe and Mariannette Miller-Meeks submitted a bipartisan letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), asking for greater flexibility and additional time for healthcare providers to use the PRFs. The letter emphasizes the continued need for providers to be able to utilize funds for patient care:
It is critical that every dollar of assistance to our health care providers can go as far as possible to keep people safe and healthy, particularly as we see SARS-CoV-2 variants like B.1.1.7 – which is more transmissible and potentially more deadly – account for an increasing share of new coronavirus cases. Providers are still delivering complex care for patients with COVID-19 and coping with higher procurement costs for personal protective equipment (PPE)… Providing much-needed flexibility, such as allowing providers to use a partial lookback window to calculate lost revenues when non-emergent and non-essential procedures were shuttered and, in particular, extending the deadline to use the PRF funds to June 30, 2022 would give these providers the ability to put more of their PRF award toward fighting COVID-19.
According to Kirk Norris, CEO and president of the Iowa Hospital Association, “The PRFs have been an integral component of a hospital’s survival during the pandemic and with the pandemic still ongoing, extending the deadline on the use of such funds will allow hospitals to utilize them in the best way possible to keep their patients and communities safe and healthy.”
Stacey Hughes, executive vice president at the American Hospital Association, makes the same argument. Specifically, she believes that the PRFs have been a life-line for hospitals and health systems across the U.S. by allowing them to keep their doors open during the pandemic. Ms. Hughes feels strongly that the bipartisan effort will help to ensure that the healthcare providers can continue to battle COVID-19 and save lives.
At this time, it is unknown whether Congress will extend the PRF cutoff. However, one thing remains certain. Despite vaccines becoming widely available and protecting more Americans each day against COVID-19, healthcare providers believe the fight against the pandemic is not over. Hospitals, health systems and caregivers across the U.S. deserve support and flexibility as they continue to combat the pandemic.