HHS on Friday conceded to complaints and agreed to reopen applications for COVID-19 relief grants for Medicare providers and extend an important application deadline for Medicaid providers.
The new application deadline for both Medicare and Medicaid providers is Aug. 28.
The agency on June 3 cut off applications for $10.9 billion in COVID-19 grant funds for providers that didn't file Medicare cost reports, but had some Medicare reimbursement. However, HHS previously said on its website that only $2.4 billion of that total had been disbursed by June 15.
HHS has since removed that total from its website, but it is likely that billions of dollars were left unclaimed at the end of the application period. The application portal will re-open the week of Aug. 10.
Some providers such as pediatricians and OB-GYN practices may have received very small amounts of Medicare fee-for-service revenue, but didn't meet the original June 3 deadline to apply for additional funds, and were excluded from both the additional Medicare the subsequent Medicaid distributions.
Monday was supposed to be the deadline for Medicaid providers to apply for $15 billion in grant funds, but HHS extended the deadline because the agency said it heard that providers didn't have enough time to complete applications.
"By giving providers until Aug. 28, 2020 to apply, HHS is hopeful it has struck the right balance in terms of providing as much flexibility as possible, recognizing the constraints on smaller practices already operating on thin margins with limited administrative staff," HHS said in a written statement.
HHS is also taking steps to remedy issues posed by provider consolidation that caused headaches in prior tranches. Providers who changed ownership in 2020 missed out on payments, as money may have been sent to prior owners. The prior owners had to return the grant funds for practices they had sold, and starting the week of Aug. 10 HHS will allow providers who changed ownership to apply for grants.
Other providers have still fallen through the cracks, HHS acknowledged, including practices that opened in 2020, those that only bill through commercial insurance and those that don't directly bill Medicare and Medicaid for services provided. The agency said it is working to address those issues.
Congress set aside $175 billion so far for the Provider Relief Fund, which is designed to help providers offset coronavirus-related expenses and lost revenue. Lawmakers are considering adding more money to the fund in their current round of COVID-19 relief negotiations.