HHS reversed course and said healthcare providers will not have to submit by July 10 a statutorily required report on how they spent COVID-19 relief grants.
Providers that received grants from the $175 billion Provider Relief Fund initially had to agree to submit quarterly reports to HHS and an independent oversight panel about how they spent the money. The reports are required by law in the CARES Act. But HHS updated guidance saying that public data disclosures would fulfill the requirement without further action by healthcare providers.
HHS said it still intends to require reports from providers at some point.
The change comes amid increased scrutiny of the Trump administration's public disclosures about how enormous sums of COVID-19 relief funds are being distributed. HHS has publicly released individual recipients and grant amounts for much of the funds already, but submitted a skimpy report with month-old data to satisfy a congressional reporting requirement.
Senate Finance Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) last week called on HHS to provide more information about the reporting requirements.
American Hospital Association General Counsel Melinda Hatton said the association looks forward to receiving further details.
"This new guidance from HHS will give our members on the front lines in the battle against this virus an opportunity to focus on the type of reporting helpful to demonstrate they are meeting the needs for which Congress established this fund," Hatton said.
Stephanie Kessler, a partner at the accounting and consulting firm RKL, said it's important for providers to stay diligent in tracking how they are using the grant funds even though the initial reporting deadline appears to have been delayed.
HHS in prior guidance had said that healthcare providers would be expected to file their first report on their use of the grant funds for the quarter ending June 30, with a July 10 due date.
But June 13, HHS removed that section and replaced it with guidance stating that providers wouldn't have to submit that report.
The agency will release guidelines on the timing and contents of future reports in the coming weeks, the HHS guidance states.