Last-Minute Advice for Home Health Agencies Before Key Provider Relief Fund Deadline

For providers still looking to secure some of the Provider Relief Fund money mandated by the CARES Act, they have until Wednesday to accept the terms and conditions and submit revenue information to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

In April, $30 billion was dispersed as an initial distribution of the general allocation fund to providers that received Medicare fee-for-service payments in 2019. A second tranche of $20 billion worth of funding was also distributed to providers that rely less on Medicare as a funding source, relying on 2018 net patient revenues instead.

All providers that bill Medicare fee-for-service received that first wave of financial relief; only some providers received that second tranche.

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It’s that second wave of funding’s terms and conditions that providers will need to attest to by June 3 if they want a piece of it.

“At first, when [HHS] announced that second tranche of funding, they had said that they were just going to accept applications on a rolling basis. They did not provide any deadline,” Matt Wolfe, a partner at law firm Parker Poe, told Home Health Care News. “At some point, I think they realized that they needed to cut things off. And so that’s why they announced that providers would have until June 3 to submit information.”

In order to submit the application for that secondary payment, two things are required from providers.

First, a provider has to have received an initial payment from that first pool of $30 billion.

“So if you didn’t receive any allocation back in April, you would not be eligible to apply for the second one,” Wolfe said. “Then, the other thing that the provider has to do is … actually attest to proceed into agreeing to the terms and conditions in order to be able to move forward with the second-tranche application.”

Because receiving funds from the second tranche is contingent upon receiving money from the first, providers should make sure they’ve already attested to the confirming agreement and terms and conditions of the original round.

Originally, the funding was displayed as a no-strings attached payment.

Since then, HHS has made it clear that the way these funds are being used will be closely monitored. So for providers that elect to use the money given to them, they should be cognizant of how it is deployed within their own business.

“I think, for the most part, you are seeing home health providers retaining the funds,” Wolfe said. “I think there were some initial concerns that they may have a repayment obligation because of how the second tranche of funding was announced. There was some poor messaging on how the second of funding was going to be calculated. But since then, there’s been some recent clarification by HHS, and my impression is that most of the home health industry feels comfortable retaining payments.”

To make sure that they don’t face trouble down the line, providers should segregate these funds and ensure they are being used to cover expenses that are directly tied to COVID-19, Wolfe said.

That would include buying additional personal protective equipment (PPE) or using the funds to make up for the revenue losses sustained in March and April,” he noted.

One of the things that is required in the application portal, in addition to tax return information, is providing evidence of revenue losses in March and April.

“So if you haven’t lost money, then I think it would be difficult to justify retention of the provided relief,” Wolfe said. “But that shouldn’t be a problem for most in the industry.”

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