By Andrew Eills
April 27, 2020
If nothing else, the COVID-19 pandemic proves that change in policy is constant and rapid. On March 28, 2020 – just a month ago – CMS announced its expansion of two temporary loan programs, the Accelerated and Advance Payment Programs, for Part A and Part B suppliers, respectively. https://www.sheehan.com/news/cares-act-expansion-of-the-accelerated-payment-program-a-needed-lifeline-for-medicare-providers/
Just yesterday, however (April 26), CMS announced an immediate suspension of the Advance Payment Program. CMS will be reevaluating all pending and new applications for Accelerated Payments by examining historical direct payments made available through the Health and Humans Services’ Provider Relief Fund.
To increase cash flow for health care providers, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (PL 116-136) and subsequent guidance from CMS offered relief through specific accelerated or advance payments (the Accelerated and Advance Payment Programs) to hospitals, doctors, durable medical equipment suppliers, and other Medicare Part A and Part B providers and suppliers. These payments are loans provided on favorable terms to ensure that providers and suppliers have the resources needed to fight against the novel coronavirus.
The amount of loan funding appears impressive. In the month since the Accelerated Payment Program’s expansion, CMS has approved over 21,000 applications totaling $59.6 billion in payments to Part A providers. The Advance Payment Program for Part B suppliers, which include physicians, non-physician practitioners, and durable medical equipment providers, has resulted in over 24,000 applications from Part B suppliers and has totaled $40.4 billion in advanced payments.
Why the change of direction? In its announcement, CMS notes that the agency has successfully “paid” (actually, loaned) $100 billion to healthcare providers and suppliers through these programs. CMS also notes that Congress has appropriated $100 billion in the CARES Act and $75 billion through the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (PL 116-139) for healthcare providers. The Department of Health and Human Services is distributing this money through the Provider Relief Fund, and because these payments do not need to be re-paid, they may be more attractive. The hitch is that providers now should focus on taking all steps necessary to ensure that they avail themselves of the funding opportunities available. For an updated fact sheet on the Accelerated and Advance Payment Programs, visit: https://link.zixcentral.com/u/420fe8ea/VvISJ5CI6hGXP00ih3soMg?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cms.gov%2Ffiles%2Fdocument%2FAccelerated-and-Advanced-Payments-Fact-Sheet.pdf.
For more information on the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund and how to apply, visit https://www.hhs.gov/coronavirus/cares-act-provider-relief-fund/index.html.