In The News

$25.5 Billion in New COVID-19 Provider Funding Available

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the (HRSA) is making $25.5 billion in new funding available for health care providers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Providers, defined as any provider or supplier of health care, services, and support in a medical setting, at home, or in the community, will apply for both programs in a single application. HRSA will use existing Medicaid, CHIP and Medicare claims data in calculating payments. The application portal will open on September 29, 2021.

PRF Phase 4

75% of the Phase 4 payments will be based on lost revenues and expenditures between July 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021. The remaining 25% of payments will be utilized for bonus payments for providers who serve Medicaid, CHIP, and/or Medicare patients.

Medium and small providers will receive a base payment plus a supplement, with smaller providers receiving the highest supplement. Large providers will receive a minimum payment amount based on a percentage of lost revenues and COVID-related expenses. HHS will determine the exact amount of the base payments and supplements after analyzing data from all the applications received to ensure available funds are distributed equitably.

Rural

HRSA will make $8.5B in rural payments to providers who serve patients who receive Medicaid, CHIP, and/or Medicare services in a rural area as defined by the HHS Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Search the Rural Health Grants Eligibility Analyzer  to see what areas qualify as "rural" for the rural payments. 

Phase 3 Reconsiderations
Providers who believe their Phase 3 payment was not calculated correctly according to this methodology will now have an opportunity to request a reconsideration. Further details on this Phase 3 reconsideration process are forthcoming.

Grace Period for Reporting Period 1

In order to help providers come into compliance with PRF Reporting requirements if they miss the September 30, 2021 deadline for the first PRF Reporting Time Period, HHS announced a final 60-day grace period for those who received a PRF payment between April 10, 2020 and June 30, 2020.

It’s important to note that the deadlines to use funds and the Reporting Time Period are not changing. However, HHS will not enforce actions for noncompliant providers during the grace period. More information on reporting is available on the HRSA website. 

Additional Information:

Visit the HRSA website for more information about eligibility requirements, documents, and information providers will need to complete their application.

 

HHS Announces the Availability of $25.5 Billion in COVID-19 Provider Funding

Combined application for American Rescue Plan rural funding and Provider Relief Fund Phase 4 will open on September 29

The Biden-Harris Administration announced today that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), is making $25.5 billion in new funding available for health care providers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding includes $8.5 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) resources for providers who serve rural Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or Medicare patients, and an additional $17 billion for Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Phase 4 for a broad range of providers who can document revenue loss and expenses associated with the pandemic.

"This funding critically helps health care providers who have endured demanding workloads and significant financial strains amidst the pandemic," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. "The funding will be distributed with an eye towards equity, to ensure providers who serve our most vulnerable communities will receive the support they need."

Consistent with the requirements included in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020, PRF Phase 4 payments will be based on providers' lost revenues and expenditures between July 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021. As part of the Biden-Harris Administration's ongoing commitment to equity, and to support providers with the most need, PRF Phase 4 will reimburse smaller providers—who tend to operate on thin margins and often serve vulnerable or isolated communities—for their lost revenues and COVID-19 expenses at a higher rate compared to larger providers. PRF Phase 4 will also include bonus payments for providers who serve Medicaid, CHIP, and/or Medicare patients, who tend to be lower income and have greater and more complex medical needs. HRSA will price these bonus payments at the generally higher Medicare rates to ensure equity for those serving low-income children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and seniors.

Similarly, HRSA will make ARP rural payments to providers based on the amount of Medicaid, CHIP and/or Medicare services they provide to patients who live in rural areas as defined by the HHS Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. As rural providers serve a disproportionate number of Medicaid and CHIP patients who often have disproportionately greater and more complex medical needs, many rural communities have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. Accordingly, ARP rural payments will also generally be based on Medicare reimbursement rates.

"We know that this funding is critical for health care providers across the country, especially as they confront new coronavirus-related challenges and respond to natural disasters," said Acting HRSA Administrator Diana Espinosa. "We are committed to distributing this funding as equitably and transparently as possible to help providers respond to and ultimately defeat this pandemic."

In order to expedite and streamline the application process and minimize administrative burdens, providers will apply for both programs in a single application. HRSA will use existing Medicaid, CHIP and Medicare claims data in calculating payments. The application portal will open on September 29, 2021. To help ensure that these provider relief funds are used for patient care, PRF recipients will be required to notify the HHS Secretary of any merger with, or acquisition of, another health care provider during the period in which they can use the payments. Providers who report a merger or acquisition may be more likely to be audited to confirm their funds were used for coronavirus-related costs, consistent with an overall risk-based audit strategy. 

To promote transparency in the PRF program, HHS is also releasing detailed information - PDF (PDF - 175 KB) about the methodology utilized to calculate PRF Phase 3 payments. Providers who believe their PRF Phase 3 payment was not calculated correctly according to this methodology will now have an opportunity to request a reconsideration. Further details on the PRF Phase 3 reconsideration process are forthcoming.

Additionally, in light of the challenges providers across the country are facing due to recent natural disasters and the Delta variant, HHS is announcing today a final 60-day grace period to help providers come into compliance with their PRF Reporting requirements if they fail to meet the deadline on September 30, 2021, for the first PRF Reporting Time Period. While the deadlines to use funds and the Reporting Time Period will not change, HHS will not initiate collection activities or similar enforcement actions for noncompliant providers during this grace period.

For more information about eligibility requirements, the documents and information providers will need to complete their application, and the application process for PRF Phase 4 and ARP Rural payments, visit: https://www.hrsa.gov/provider-relief/future-payments.

Announcement posted on https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2021/09/10/hhs-announces-the-availability-of-25-point-5-billion-in-covid-19-provider-funding.html

 

Biden-Harris Administration to Expand Vaccination Requirements for Health Care Settings [Published by CMS]

New action will protect patients of the 50,000 providers and over 17 million health care workers in Medicare and Medicaid certified facilities

The Biden-Harris Administration will require COVID-19 vaccination of staff within all Medicare and Medicaid-certified facilities to protect both them and patients from the virus and its more contagious Delta variant.  Facilities across the country should make efforts now to get health care staff vaccinated to make sure they are in compliance when the rule takes effect.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), announced today that emergency regulations requiring vaccinations for nursing home workers will be expanded to include hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies, among others, as a condition for participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The decision was based on the continued and growing spread of the virus in health care settings, especially in parts of the U.S. with higher incidence of COVID-19. 

“There is no higher priority for us than patient health and safety. As the Delta variant strengthens, the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to doing everything we can to keep patients, and those who care for them, safe,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra. “There is no question that staff, across any health care setting, who remain unvaccinated pose both direct and indirect threats to patient safety and population health. Ensuring safety and access to all patients, regardless of their entry point into the health care system, is essential.”

Nursing homes with an overall staff vaccination rate of 75% or lower experience higher rates of preventable COVID infection. In CMS’s review of available data, the agency is seeing lower staff vaccination rates among hospital and End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) facilities. To combat this issue, CMS is using its authority to establish vaccine requirements for all providers and suppliers that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Vaccinations have proven to reduce the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 and are effective against the Delta variant.  CMS will continue to work closely with all Medicare and Medicaid certified facilities to ensure these new requirements are met.

“We know that those working in health care want to do what is best for their patients in order to keep them safe,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.  “As the Delta variant continues to spread, we know the best defense against it lies with the COVID-19 vaccine. Data show that the higher the level of vaccination rates among providers and staff, the lower the infection rate is among patients who are dependent upon them for care. Now is the time to act. I’m urging everyone, but especially those fighting this virus on the front lines, to get vaccinated and protect themselves, their families, and their patients from COVID-19.”

CMS is developing an Interim Final Rule with Comment Period that will be issued in October.  CMS expects certified Medicare and Medicaid facilities to act in the best interest of patients and staff by complying with new COVID-19 vaccination requirements.  Health care workers employed in these facilities who are not currently vaccinated are urged to begin the process immediately. Facilities are urged to use all available resources to support employee vaccinations, including employee education and clinics, as they work to meet new federal requirements.

Get CMS news at cms.gov/newsroom, sign up for CMS news via email and follow CMS on Twitter @CMSgov

 

New Federal COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Requirements

Requiring All Employers with 100+ Employees to Ensure their Workers are Vaccinated or Tested Weekly

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to implement this requirement. This requirement will impact over 80 million workers in private sector businesses with 100+ employees.

Requiring COVID-19 Vaccinations for Over 17 Million Health Care Workers at Medicare and Medicaid Participating Hospitals and Other Health Care Settings

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is taking action to require COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in most health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, including but not limited to hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies. This action builds on the vaccination requirement for nursing facilities recently announced by CMS, and will apply to nursing home staff as well as staff in hospitals and other CMS-regulated settings, including clinical staff, individuals providing services under arrangements, volunteers, and staff who are not involved in direct patient, resident, or client care. These requirements will apply to approximately 50,000 providers and cover a majority of health care workers across the country. Some facilities and states have begun to adopt hospital staff or health care sector vaccination mandates. This action will create a consistent standard across the country, while giving patients assurance of the vaccination status of those delivering care.

Requiring Vaccinations for all Federal Workers and for Millions of Contractors that Do Business with the Federal Government

Building on the President’s announcement in July to strengthen safety requirements for unvaccinated federal workers, the President has signed an Executive Order to take those actions a step further and require all federal executive branch workers to be vaccinated. The President also signed an Executive Order directing that this standard be extended to employees of contractors that do business with the federal government. As part of this effort, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Indian Health Service, and the National Institute of Health will complete implementation of their previously announced vaccination requirements that cover 2.5 million people.

Calling on Large Entertainment Venues to Require Proof of Vaccination or Testing for Entry

The President’s plan calls on entertainment venues like sports arenas, large concert halls, and other venues where large groups of people gather to require that their patrons be vaccinated or show a negative test for entry.

See synopsis of full plan at https://www.whitehouse.gov/covidplan/ 

 

COVID-19 Updates (09/10/2021)

Mu COVID Variant That May Resist Vaccines Found in 49 U.S. States

“Nebraska is the only state in the United States to have not detected a case of the Mu variant of COVID-19, which may render vaccines less effective. Since being first identified in Colombia in January, the Mu variant has spread to 41 countries, including the United States. Most prevalent in Hawaii and Alaska, the variant accounts for less than one percent of cases in the U.S., but its potential to be more transmissible or resist vaccines and natural immunity have health officials keeping tabs on the mutation.” Read full article on Newsweek website.

ANA Urges HHS to Declare Nurse Staffing Shortage a National Crisis

“The American Nurses Association (ANA), representing the interests of the nation’s 4.2 million nurses, urges the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to declare the current and unsustainable nurse staffing shortage facing our country a national crisis. In a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, ANA calls for the Administration to acknowledge and take concrete action to address the current crisis-level nurse staffing shortage that puts nurses’ ability to care for patients in jeopardy.” Read full letter on Nursing World website

Breakthrough Infections Twice as Likely to Be Asymptomatic

Medscape Medical News reports, “People with breakthrough COVID-19 infections are two times more likely to be completely asymptomatic and are about two-thirds less likely to be hospitalized, compared with those who are unvaccinated, according to a new observational study. Individuals infected with COVID-19 after receiving their first or second dose of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine experienced a lower number of symptoms in the first week of infection, compared with those who did not receive a COVID-19 vaccine, reported the authors of the report in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.”

 
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