The American Hospital Association (AHA) has formally asked HHS to extend the timeframe for providers to spend relief funds past the existing June 30 deadline.
Specifically, the advocacy group is asking that recipients be allowed to spend the funds throughout the remainder of the Covid-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE).
The Provider Relief Fund has served as a lifeline for providers throughout the PHE, as most have been barred from billing patients for Covid-19 testing, vaccine administration and related treatment. The agency said that these billing restrictions, along with a still-substantial Covid numbers, have created the need for increased flexibility in spending relief funds.
“The PRF funds have been a lifeline for hospitals and health systems and allowed them to continue to put the health and safety of patients and personnel first, and in many cases, ensured they are able to keep their doors open,” AHA said in its May 5 letter. “While new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have slowed since the peak this winter, they are still significant. For example, approximately 50,000 new cases of COVID-19 are still occurring each day.”
Providers will presumably be required to report on the use of these funds later this year, although a deadline to do so has not been established. Currently, HHS is asking providers who received at least $10,000 in aggregate relief fund payments to register for its reporting portal, however, further instruction on next steps has not been updated since January.
Spending of relief fund payments is restricted to health care-related expenses attributable to the coronavirus that have not already been reimbursed by another source. This includes both general and administrative expenses such as rent and utilities, and health care expenses such as PPE and equipment.