The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is distributing $24.5 billion to more than 70,000 health care providers nationwide following a review of the program’s Phase 3 applications. Thus far the agency has not indicated how much of those funds will be allocated to hospices.
The CARES Act, enacted on March 27, earmarked $175 billion to health care providers across the continuum through the Provider Relief Fund. In the first round of payments in April, totaling $30 billion, hospices received approximately $1 billion. The amount of funds earmarked for each health care sector is based on a percentage of the Medicare reimbursement that a provider receives.
“HHS is providing more than $24 billion in new relief to more than 70,000 health care providers, meeting close to 90% of the losses they’ve reported from the COVID-19 pandemic in the first half of the year,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “With the Provider Relief Fund, we’ve been able to support providers hardest hit by COVID-19, including safety net hospitals, rural providers, and nursing homes, helping ensure they can continue serving their communities during and beyond the pandemic.”
HHS issued guidance on the fund on June 19, 2020 that defined “lost revenue” as any revenue that a health care provider lost due to coronavirus. However, the agency recently clarified that hospices can include revenue lost due to diminished fundraising and philanthropic donations in their relief requests.
The financial and operational impact of the pandemic has been monumental for hospices. Providers have been in dire need of additional supplies, with acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE) as a top priority. The tremendous global demand for those products has driven up prices. Hospices have also had difficulty accessing patients, investing in new telehealth capabilities and covering paid leave for staff who have been exposed to the virus.
Payments from this latest distribution of funds will go out between Dec. 16 and Jan. 2021. The agency initially anticipated a $20 million outlay for the third phase, but included an additional $4.5 million to come closer to reaching the amount of losses that health care organizations reported.
HHS will not send additional payments to more than 35,000 applicants that have experienced no change in revenues or net expenses associated with COVID-19, or because they have already received funds that equal or exceed a threshold of 88% of reported losses.