December 16, 2020, Alex Spanko, Skilled Nursing News - The federal government on Wednesday announced an expansion of the third phase of COVID-19 relief for health care providers, specifically releasing an extra $1.1 billion to nursing homes. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) decided to boost its Phase 3 funding total from $20 billion to $24 billion after determining that the initial amount was not enough to cover lost revenues and expense increases — the stated purpose of the distribution.
“This funding will distribute to providers up to 88% of their reported losses,” HHS observed in its statement announcing the move. “It is worth noting that over 35,000 applicants will not receive an additional payment either because they experienced no change in revenues or net expenses attributable to COVID-19, or because they have already received funds that equal or exceed reimbursement of 88% of reported losses.”
The first round of Phase 3 payments will hit operators’ bank accounts today, according to HHS, and will continue into the new year.
“HHS is providing more than $24 billion in new relief to more than 70,000 healthcare providers, meeting close to 90% of the losses they’ve reported from the COVID-19 pandemic in the first half of the year,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in the statement. “With the Provider Relief Fund, we’ve been able to support providers hardest hit by COVID-19, including safety net hospitals, rural providers, and nursing homes, helping ensure they can continue serving their communities during and beyond the pandemic.”
HHS initially announced the $20 billion Phase 3 distribution in October, urging providers to apply for the funds as soon as possible to expedite the calculation process.
The third phase comes on top of other dedicated federal relief rounds for nursing homes, as well as blanket cash allocated to Medicare and Medicaid providers.
The additional $1 billion funding injection is also separate from the value-based incentive program for nursing homes, which thus far has distributed $856 million to facilities that were able to reduce COVID-19 infection and death rates below HHS-determined benchmarks.
All of those distributions come from the original Provider Relief Fund, created under the $2 trillion CARES Act relief package approved by Congress early in the coronavirus crisis.
A long-awaited second stimulus remains under consideration, with a bipartisan group of lawmakers this week releasing a framework that would send an additional $2 billion to long-term care providers — though it also includes a controversial liability shield for health care providers and many other employers, which could emerge as a key point of contention between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.