• Six things to know about the CARES Act provider relief fund payments

    The federal government recently started doling out an initial $30 billion in COVID-19 aid payments to physicians and other Medicare fee-for-service providers, as part of the $100 billion provider relief fund under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The direct deposit payments began hitting bank accounts April 10. Whether you were expecting these deposits or they were a nice surprise, there are a few things physicians should know about them.

    1. These are grants, not loans or advanced payments (those are available under separate federal programs). They do not have to be repaid and they won’t be put toward future Medicare services.

    2. The payment amounts are based on each clinician’s share of Medicare fee-for-service spending during a portion of 2019. For details on the calculations, see the HHS provider relief webpage. According to some reports, the amounts received are the equivalent of nearly three weeks of Medicare payments.

    3. Independent solo physicians will receive the payments directly. Employed physicians and physicians in group practices will not. Instead, the payments will go to their organizations, which will then have to decide how to disburse the money.

    4. Clinicians who receive Medicare payments through direct deposit will get the money from Optum Bank with “HHSPAYMENT” as the descriptor. Clinicians who usually are paid by paper check will receive one in the mail, but it may take several more weeks.

    5. Within 30 days of receiving the funds, clinicians must sign an attestation confirming receipt of the funds and agreeing to the terms and conditions.

    6. The conditions include that the clinician is eligible to bill Medicare and agrees to not seek out-of-pocket payments from a COVID-19 patient that are greater than what the patient would otherwise have been required to pay if the care had been provided by an in-network provider (i.e., no “balance billing”).

    If you have specific questions about the grant funds, call the HHS Provider Relief hotline at 866-569-3522. More information about these payments is available from the American Academy of Family Physicians and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    Posted on Apr 17, 2020 by FPM Editors

    Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions and views of the American Academy of Family Physicians. This blog is not intended to provide medical, financial, or legal advice. Some payers may not agree with the advice given. This is not a substitute for current CPT and ICD-9 manuals and payer policies. All comments are moderated and will be removed if they violate our Terms of Use.