CMS reevaluates Accelerated Payment Program and suspends Advance Payment Program
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that it is reevaluating the amounts that will be paid under its Accelerated Payment Program and suspending its Advance Payment Program to Part B suppliers effective immediately.
CMS had expanded these temporary loan programs to ensure providers and suppliers had the resources needed to combat the beginning stages of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Unlike other funding programs, the advance and accelerated payments were not grants and had to be paid back within one year or less, depending on provider type.
Funding will continue to be available to physicians and providers through the Provider Relief Fund, and these payments do not need to be repaid. Click here for more information on the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund and how to apply, visit this website. For an updated fact sheet on the Accelerated and Advance Payment Programs, click here. (April 27, 2020)
Updates on new PPP funding, additional HHS provider relief funds, and more
Congress passed The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, injecting $321 billion of new funding into the small business loan program and allocating additional funding to assist the COVID-19 response. Also this week, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced more funds from the $100 billion CARES Act Provider Relief Fund will be released starting this week. Learn more about these federal relief efforts. (April 24, 2020)
FCC offers financial support for telehealth services
The Federal Communications Commission offers new programs for physicians and other providers aimed at assisting with your telehealth program setup and enhancing capacity. Learn more.
HHS announces immediate infusion of $30 billion into health care system
To support health care-related expenses or lost revenue attributable to COVID-19, the federal government is distributing $30 billion immediately—with payments arriving via direct deposit beginning April 10, 2020—to eligible providers throughout the American health care system. These are payments, not loans, to health care providers, and will not need to be repaid. Learn more. (April 10, 2020)
CMS issues new guidance on advance payments
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services provides information on how physicians can request accelerated and advance payments. The agency clarifies that it will prioritize assistance to those states hardest hit by COVID-19, including Washington. Additionally, CMS provides coding guidance for testing and claims reporting. Download CMS Letter to Clinicians to Summarize Actions CMS Has Taken to Ensure Clinicians Have Maximum Flexibility to Reduce Unnecessary Barriers to Providing Patient Care.(April 7, 2020)
Insurers announce accelerated, advance payment programs
UnitedHealth Group has announced a new accelerated payment program to pay claims faster, helping physician practices that are being impacted by COVID-19. Accelerated claim payments will be available to medical and behavioral care providers in UnitedHealthcare's fully insured commercial, Medicare Advantage, and Medicaid businesses. UHG is also suspending prior authorization requirements in some settings to assist patients and providers. Read the UnitedHealth Group announcement for details. Premera Blue Cross has also announced it's providing up to $100 million in financial support in the form of advance payments of claims to medical, dental, and behavioral health providers facing significant financial pressures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Premera is also extending prior authorization timeframes in light of the non-urgent medical procedure delay order. Learn more about Premera's advance payment program and related policies on its website. (April 9, 2020)
Financial relief news and resources in brief
Physician practices qualify for federal small business loan program
A recent WSMA survey of physician clinics in our state found that virtually all respondents are being financially impacted by COVID-19, with several having to close their doors altogether. The federal stimulus package (a.k.a. CARES Act) is intended to provide financial relief to individuals and businesses through a number of programs. The "Paycheck Protection Program" is likely to be of most utility to physician practices, as it provides loans of up to $10 million to qualifying businesses of less than 500 employees that under some circumstances do not need to be repaid.
Intended primarily as a tool for businesses impacted by COVID-19 to cover payroll costs as well as some operational expenses, the PPP loans do not require collateral and can cover up to two months of your average monthly payroll costs from the last year, plus an additional 25% of that amount (with payroll calculations capped at $100,000 per employee). Provided that the funds are used to primarily cover payroll costs, and that staff and payroll are maintained for the duration of the loan, the loan can be forgiven. Beyond payroll, up to 25% of the loan may be used for operational expenses such as rent, interest on mortgages, and utilities.
The PPP launches on Friday, April 3, and given the projected demand for loans, early participation is strongly encouraged. As a first step, consider reaching out to the bank your practice works with as all federally-insured financial institutions are eligible lenders. A fact sheet on the program from the Treasury Department can be found here, and a the application form can be found here.
Other financial assistance during COVID-19
The US Small Business Administration is offering a low-interest loans to help small business owners meet financial obligations, cover operating expenses, and alleviate economic injury caused by COVID-19. Click here to determine your eligibility. For more information and to apply, click here. For questions, 800.659.2955 or email@example.com. (March 20, 2020)