The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has begun distributing the first $30 billion installment of public health funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also called the CARES ACT. An estimated $1 billion is expected to go to hospice and palliative care providers via direct deposit.
The CARES Act, enacted on March 27, will pay for government aid to individuals, families and businesses that were hard hit by the economic turmoil brought on by COVID-19, including health care organizations. The law contains a $100 billion Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to aid health care providers.
“[The amount of funds each health care sector receives] is based on a percentage of the Medicare reimbursement that a provider receives, so we are roughly looking at more than a billion dollars of that $30 billion is going to hospice,” Edo Banach, president and CEO of the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), told Hospice News. “It’s actually already flowing to providers.”
All providers that received Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) reimbursements in 2019 are eligible for this initial distribution. Within 30 days of receiving the payment, providers must sign an attestation confirming receipt of the funds and agreeing to the terms and conditions of payment. The portal for signing the attestation will be open the week of April 13, 2020 and will be accessible via the CMS website.
An additional $70 million in CARES Act public health funds will be available in the coming weeks, though exactly when, and which entities will have access to those funds, remains unknown.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit hospices hard from an operational standpoint as well as financially. Hospices have been in dire need of additional supplies, with personal protective equipment (PPE) at the top of that list. The tremendous global demand for those products has driven up prices. Hospices have also had difficulty accessing patients, invest in new telehealth capabilities and cover paid leave for staff who have been exposed to the virus.
“This funding is a lifeline that will allow us to continue our focus on serving the seriously ill and support our hospital and nursing home partners with expert end-of-life care. With prices for things like face masks that have gone up as much as 2,000%, the CARES Act funding is essential in the face of COVID-19 to ensuring access to high-quality hospice and palliative care services,” said Liz Fowler, CEO of Kentucky-based hospice provider Bluegrass Care Navigators.