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Virus Hot Spots, Rural Hospitals in Line for $20 Billion Payout

April 22, 2020, 7:55 PM

The Trump administration will target a total of $20 billion for health-care providers in virus hot spots and rural hospitals, the HHS announced Wednesday.

The Department of Health and Human Services plans to release $10 billion targeted at areas with the most cases of Covid-19, $10 billion for rural hospitals, and $400 million to Indian Health Service facilities, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a call with reporters. Another $20 billion in general funds will go to medical providers such as hospitals and doctors. These funds are all part of a $100 billion fund for providers that Congress set up.

Congress appropriated a total of $100 billion in funds in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and is set to vote on an additional $75 billion Thursday. However, the first $30 billion to go out has been plagued by complaints that it didn’t go where it was most needed because it was allocated based on previous Medicare payments.

As a condition of accepting the funds, providers won’t be allowed to send “surprise bills” to their patients or bill uninsured patients at all, Azar said.

The hot spot-targeted funds will be distributed based on the areas with the most cases. For example, if New York has 40% of Covid-19 cases, it would get $4 billion, Azar gave as an example. Hospitals have until Thursday at midnight PST to apply for those funds.

The funds for rural hospitals and tribal nations will be based on the hospital’s operating expenses.

“We will be clear and careful” about how the money is allocated, Azar said.

The general funds will be allocated based on patient revenue in 2018 and the first set of those payments will go out Friday, Azar said.

That leaves another $29.6 billion to distribute, and Azar said federal officials plan to allocate that to Medicaid-only providers, dentists, skilled nursing facilities in hot zones, care for the uninsured, and additional hot spot funds as needed.

Uninsured Care

The HHS is also setting up a $1 billion fund to reimburse any care for the uninsured, Health Resources and Services Administration Administrator Tom Engels said on the call. Providers will need to enroll in the program and submit claims for any care that happened after Feb. 4.

Reimbursement will be for testing and care related to a Covid-19 diagnosis, including hospital care, outpatient care, nursing facilities, and FDA-approved treatments, Engels said.

A person with a short-term health insurance plan doesn’t count as uninsured, a senior HHS official said on the call.

Providers can start registering to receive payments for uninsured care April 27, submit claims starting in early May, and receive payments starting in mid-May, Engels said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shira Stein in Washington at sstein@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloomberglaw.com; Brent Bierman at bbierman@bloomberglaw.com

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