HHS on Friday announced plans to send an additional $3 billion in provider COVID-19 relief grants to safety-net hospitals that were left out of a prior funding tranche, and will give $1 billion to an assortment of rural and smaller hospitals.
HHS officials said the new distribution is being made because they realized some safety-net hospitals didn't meet the criteria for a prior $10 billion distribution. America's Essential Hospitals, a trade group that represents safety-net hospitals, said less than half of its members qualified for the first round of safety-net funding.
"We appreciate the administration's efforts to correct earlier funding gaps that left many essential hospitals without the support they need; but there is more work to do," said AEH President and CEO Bruce Siegel.
The new profitability threshold for acute-care hospitals is less than 3% averaged consecutively over two or more of the last five cost reporting periods. The previous standard required hospitals to have less than 3% profitability in its most recent cost report. HHS said the new distribution will go to 215 acute-care hospitals.
Another $1 billion will be sent to specialty rural hospitals, urban hospitals with certain rural Medicare designations, and hospitals in small metropolitan areas. Dentists are also eligible to apply for relief grants up to 2% of their annual patient revenue.
American Hospital Association President and CEO Rick Pollack praised the distribution and called for the rest of the emergency provider relief funds set aside by Congress be sent out as soon as possible. HHS officials estimated that roughly $115 billion of the $175 billion fund has been obligated so far, and some of the remaining funds will be used to reimburse providers for COVID-19 testing and care for uninsured patients.
A senior HHS official said that the department is working to include providers who don't accept Medicare or Medicaid in future funding distributions, and said the second wave of funds to facilities in COVID-19 hot spots will be announced soon.
Congressional leaders are also planning to consider another COVID-19 relief package this month, which could include some replenishment of the Provider Relief Fund.