Updated January 4, 2021
On March 27, the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The law allocates $2 trillion for financial relief to small businesses, to support health care workers, to get medical supplies to the front lines, to fund research for treatments and vaccines, and to stimulate the U.S. economy.
Yes. The Academy lobbied Congress to support the primary care workforce on the front line of the pandemic with resources for telehealth expansion and funding for community health centers and teaching health centers so that more U.S. patients could be seen.
The CARES Act includes several provisions that are important for family medicine:
There are several pathways to financial relief during the COVID-19 crisis. Some family physicians will be qualified for:
The AAFP has assembled a chart listing COVID-19 financial assistance programs by state using information found on zenefits.com. The AAFP does not endorse any of the financial assistance programs below. This is for informational purposes only and is not an exhaustive list.
The Small Business Administration is providing forgivable loans though the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and targeted, low-interest Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)loans to qualifying small businesses, including family physician practices.
The CARES Act includes $100 billion for grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. Recipients will include health care providers affected by COVID-19, including Medicare- and Medicaid-enrolled practices, hospitals, public entities, and nonprofit entities. The grants are meant to cover unreimbursed health-care-related expenses or lost revenues.
Tool to use: the AAFP COVID-19 Related Loss Calculator, which helps members to quantify economic harm to their practices in order to apply for the funding. View an example of the type of output you can expect from the calculator here.
On April 27, HHS launched the COVID-19 Uninsured Program Portal to allow family physicians and clinicians who have conducted COVID-19 testing or provided treatment for uninsured COVID-19 individuals on or after February 4, 2020, to submit claims for reimbursement. HRSA has contracted with UnitedHealth Group to be the sole administrator of the program.
October 1 Update: Medicare Loan Repayment Terms Loosened by Congress
Loan repayment terms for family physicians who took out a Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment (AAP) program loan were relaxed in legislation signed September 30.
Acute and critical access hospitals received the great majority of AAP loans. The loans were supposed to come due starting in August, and recoupment would have caused every claim submitted by the provider/supplier to be offset from the new claims to repay the accelerated/advance payment.
Physicians now have one year after the AAP loan was issued before recoupment begins, a 120-day extension. The recoupment rate will be lowered from its current 100% level to 25% for the first 11 months of repayment, and 50% for the six months afterward. Physicians have 29 months after the receipt of a loan to pay back the funds in full before interest begins to accrue. The interest rate has been lowered from 9.6% to 4%. Refer to this fact sheet on repayment terms for details. Physicians should contact their Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) with any questions. Find MAC contact information here.
As of April 26, CMS has stopped accepting new applications for its Accelerated and Advance Payment Program; the agency says it is re-evaluating all pending and new applications for accelerated payments in light of historical direct payments made available through HHS’s Provider Relief Fund.
CMS had expanded the program for all Medicare providers during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The payments could be requested by hospitals, doctors, durable medical equipment suppliers and other Medicare Part A and Part B providers and suppliers.
To qualify for accelerated or advance payments, the provider or supplier must:
Physicians will have 210 days from the date the accelerated or advance payment was made to repay the balance.
On May 1, 2020, HHS published additional details about the distribution of $10 billion from the Provider Relief Fund to rural health clinics, rural federally qualified health centers, and rural hospitals.
RHCs and FQHCs will receive a minimum base payment plus a percentage of their annual expenses. The base payment will account for RHCs with no reported Medicare claims, such as pediatric RHCs and FQHCs lacking expense data, by ensuring that all clinical, nonhospital sites receive a minimum level of support no less than $100,000, with additional payment based on operating expenses.
Payments will be distributed the week of May 4 via direct deposit, based on the physical address of the facilities as reported to CMS and the Health Resources and Services Administration, regardless of their affiliation with organizations based in urban areas.
CMS announced on Dec. 2 that the deadline to file applications for the “extreme and uncontrollable circumstances” hardship exception for the 2020 performance year has been extended to Feb. 1, 2021. Read more about the CMS Quality Payment Program here.