I want to pass along a timely update about the Provider Relief Fund and our productive discussions with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to unlock those funds.
As many of you know, the National Council and 26 other leading behavioral health organizations sent a letter on June 18 to HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan calling for an additional distribution from the Provider Relief Fund, which was established by the CARES Act.
We got their attention.
Our letter prompted Deputy Secretary Hargan to hold a conference call on Tuesday, June 30, with the signatories to discuss the difficulties providers have had engaging with the Provider Relief Fund distribution portals and the negligible amount of financial resources providers have received. I’m happy to report that we had a productive discussion and changes are on the way – there will be a way for eligible health care providers to receive 2% of gross receipts from patient care.
That is a dramatic change that will help many National Council members, and HHS intends to make an announcement soon about this revision. We will also make sure you all know about the details of the programmatic changes as we receive those updates from HHS.
We arrived at this positive outcome after describing what all of you have gone through – the lost revenues, closures of programs and services, layoffs and furloughs. We described the confusion surrounding the various provider portals and association Provider Relief Fund distributions. We told HHS that providers are unsure when to apply for relief funds and which targeted distribution to apply for. We also explained that because Medicare represents only 5-7% of annual revenue for behavioral health providers, many providers believe their financial viability is better served by waiting for the Medicaid and CHIP distribution. We told HHS that providers did what they think is in the best interest of their practices, unaware that they will be prohibited from receiving funds from the Medicaid and CHIP targeted distribution.
Deputy Secretary Hargan described the intention of the previously released Provider Relief Fund distributions – to “true-up” both Medicare and Medicaid providers, and he acknowledged that a number of provider types have experienced the same issues and confusion in engaged the portals and accessing needed relief funds.
Perhaps most importantly, Deputy Secretary Hargan agreed that the behavioral health needs in our nation will continue and indicated that there will be a future “tranche” of monies dedicated to providers based on revenue lost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that all providers have the ability to access 2% of gross receipts from patient care as a source of relief.
He also indicated that organizations that were unable to receive the full 2% from previous distributions will have preference in the next distribution of funding.
Finally, Deputy Secretary Hargan reinforced that the Medicaid and CHIP Targeted Distribution is still open (it is scheduled to close on July 20) and encouraged eligible organizations to apply.
I know it’s been difficult for all of you to since the pandemic began to wreak economic havoc on your practices, but I’m so happy to report that our efforts to outline those difficulties is finally paying off and help is on the way.
Thank you all so much and have a wonderful holiday weekend.