Becerra Pledges To Offer Providers Guidance And Flexibility On June 30 COVID-19 Relief Fund Deadline

June 10, 2021

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Source: Fierce Healthcare, by Robert King

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra said guidance is coming to help providers meet a June 30 deadline to spend all their COVID-19 relief funds but didn’t endorse an extension that several groups have called for.

“We are trying to provide some flexibility,” Becerra told lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday.

But he refused to say that HHS will extend the June 30 deadline.

“We want to make sure everyone keeps the deadlines as best as possible,” he said.

Major hospital groups wrote to HHS last month calling for the deadline to be extended through the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, which will likely run through the rest of 2021.

Groups such as the Federation of American Hospitals and the American Hospital Association wrote that hospitals are continuing to experience negative financial consequences from the pandemic, underscoring the need for more flexibility.

The Health Resources and Services Administration, which is overseeing the distribution of funding, told Fierce Healthcare last month that $24 billion in funding needed to be allocated.

Becerra also pledged to be transparent on the distribution of the funding.

He referred to initial criticism with how the initial tranches of funding from a $178 billion pot were given out to providers. The money was approved under the CARES Act last year to help providers plug revenue holes caused by volume declines due to COVID-19.

“We have seen how the provider relief fund was deployed,” he said. “We are trying to make sure we don’t make the mistakes of the past.”

Provider groups initially criticized the funding distribution that gave out money to providers based on Medicare claims, which left safety net providers who rely on Medicaid in the lurch. The Trump administration had said the goal was initially to get out the funding as quickly as possible, and it later devoted dedicated funding to rural and safety net providers.

 

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