Cash-strapped Medicaid providers hart hit by the Covid-19 crisis will have an additional month to seek federal relief funds, the Department of Health and Human Services said Friday.
The HHS in June allocated $15 billion to health-care providers that primarily serve low-income and uninsured patients and that hadn’t yet received funding. But the initial deadline for providers to apply for the funds, July 20, proved too difficult for most to meet, the agency said.
Providers now have until Aug. 28 to submit their applications, after the agency previously pushed back the deadline to Aug. 3.
The HHS also said it will allow Medicare providers who missed out on a portion of the early relief funding to apply between Aug. 10-28.
The decision to extend the deadline is an example of the HHS working with providers “to ensure as many as possible receive the support they need,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.
But it also shows that the application process has been burdensome for at least some Medicaid providers.
The HHS is developing a simplified application in response to provider feedback, and recognizes “the constraints on smaller practices already operating on thin margins with limited administrative staff,” the agency said in the statement.
The HHS didn’t respond to repeated requests for information about how many Medicaid providers have been able to complete applications.
The agency said in the statement it will “keep an open line of communication with provider organizations, congressional, state and local leaders, in a collective effort to get the word out about this program.”
But provider groups say the lack of a direct relationship between the HHS and Medicaid providers has been a fundamental challenge in the government’s effort to get relief aid to them.
Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, said prior to the announcement that the federal relief effort is hobbled by the agency’s lack of “line of sight” into Medicaid providers.
“The federal government doesn’t know who they are, how big they are, where they are, or how much money they need,” he said.
Instead of providing money directly to the Medicaid providers, it would make more sense to funnel money through state Medicaid programs, which have the information about Medicaid providers that is necessary to get relief to them effectively, Salo said. But direct action from Congress may be needed to make that possible, he added.
Congress has provided a total of $175 billion through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and subsequent legislation to hospitals and other providers.