Editor's note: The deadline to apply for Phase 4 of the PRF and for the ARP resources is 11:59 p.m. ET on October 26.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is making $25.5 billion in new COVID-19 relief funding available for physicians and other health care entities. The funding includes $8.5 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) resources for those who serve rural areas and $17 billion for Phase 4 of the COVID-19 Provider Relief Fund (PRF).
The Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) will base PRF Phase 4 payments on physicians’ lost revenues and expenses related to the pandemic between July 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021. Phase 4 will pay smaller entities a higher rate than larger ones, because they tend to operate on thin margins and serve vulnerable or isolated communities. Phase 4 will also include bonus payments for those who serve Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicare patients. HRSA will price these bonuses at Medicare rates (which are generally higher) for Medicaid and CHIP patients to ensure equity for those who serve low-income children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and seniors.
Similarly, HRSA will make ARP payments to physicians based on the amount of Medicaid, CHIP, and Medicare services they provide to patients who live in rural areas as defined by the HHS Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. These payments will also generally be based on Medicare rates.
To streamline the process and minimize administrative burdens, physicians and others may apply for both programs in a single application, starting Sept. 29. To ensure recipients use relief funds for patient care, HRSA will require them to notify the HHS Secretary of any merger with or acquisition of another health care entity during the period in which they can use the payments. Those who report a merger or acquisition may be more likely to be audited to confirm their funds were used for coronavirus-related costs.
Sixty-day grace period for reporting
Additionally, given the challenges caused by recent natural disasters and the Delta variant of the coronavirus, HHS has announced a final 60-day grace period to help physicians and others comply with their PRF Reporting requirements if they fail to meet the Sept. 30 deadline for the first reporting period. While the deadlines to use funds and the Reporting Time Period will not technically change, HHS says it will not initiate collections or similar enforcement actions during this grace period.
For more information about eligibility requirements, the documents and information you will need to complete an application, and the application process for PRF Phase 4 and ARP Rural payments, visit: https://www.hrsa.gov/provider-relief/future-payments.
— Kent Moore, Senior Strategist for Physician Payment
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