Providers that didn't report on Provider Relief Fund money they received in the first round because of "extenuating circumstances" have an opportunity to request additional time, the Health Resources and Services Administration announced Wednesday.
Severe illnesses or deaths of employees responsible for reporting, natural disasters that damaged records or technology near the end of the reporting period, internal miscommunication about reporting and failures to click "submit" count as extenuating circumstances that warrant extra time to report after the deadline, according to HRSA.
Providers that didn't have correct email or mailing addresses on file and subsidiaries that didn't report targeted distributions are also eligible for the extension.
The original Period 1 reporting deadline was Sept. 30, but funding recipients got a 60-day grace period until Nov. 30, plus an additional week in December, to provide the required information.
HRSA informed noncompliant providers last month that they'd need to repay undocumented Provider Relief Funds within 30 days of that notice.
The American Medical Association and other provider groups last week urged the agency to reopen the portal for another 60 days.
Providers can submit requests to report late because of extenuating circumstances from April 11 through April 22. If requests are approved, providers will have 10 days after being notified to supply their reports. Providers not granted extra time to report must return undocumented PRF money.
American Medical Association President Dr. Gerald Harmon said that while HRSA reopening the portal is a positive development, the time allotted for additional reports is "alarmingly short."
"Additionally, what extra steps will HRSA take to reach the physicians who need to report? We remain concerned that the physicians most impacted will be those in small practices who serve the underserved and rural communities," Harmon said in a statement.
The two-stage process to get a request approved and then complete reporting could prove burdensome, said Shari Erickson, chief advocacy officer and senior vice president of governmental affairs and public policy for the American College of Physicians.
HRSA specified that providers must offer "clear and concise" explanations of why they didn't report on time, but additional documentation isn't required.
"Submission of a Request to Report Late Due to Extenuating Circumstances does not guarantee the request will be approved or that a provider will be allowed to enter the PRF Reporting Portal to complete and submit a report. Approval or denial of requests are subject to determination by HRSA," the agency's website reads.
The agency isn't sufficiently transparent about the criteria it will use to approve or reject deadline extensions, Erickson said. "It really is up to HRSA, according to this, to decide if your reason is sufficient, and it's not clear what guidance or guidelines they'll use for making those decisions," she said.
Providers should register in the PRF reporting portal prior to submitting their requests for more time, HRSA advises. The extra time cannot be used to revise reports that have already been submitted.