In the past two years since the onset of the pandemic, providers have benefited from payments by the Provider Relief Fund. This fund was designated for providers who experienced lost revenues and increased expenses during the pandemic, and money was allocated to those practices that test, diagnose, or care for people with possible or confirmed cases of COVID-19.
To date, there have been four phases of Provider Relief Fund payments. Phase Four payments began going out in December of 2021, and while most of the payments from this phase have already been processed (about 82%, according to estimates), any remaining applications — which were due to be submitted by November 2021 — will continue to be processed throughout early 2022. In total, Phase 4 and American Rescue Plan rural payments together have already paid out more than $18 billion.
Previously, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had announced in December that they were distributing an additional $9 billion. But on January 25th, HHS revealed that a further $2 billion will be distributed from the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Phase 4 General Distribution. While these are positive steps, the additions together still do not complete the full distribution of $17 billion that was initially allocated to Phase Four.
Phase Four payments have been rolled out differently from other phases. According to HHS, the payments distributed during Phase Four have a greater focus on equity. In practice, this involves reimbursing a higher percentage of losses for smaller practices as well as incorporating bonus payments for providers who serve beneficiaries of programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
However, once a provider receives a payment, they must confirm that they have done so within 90 days. To do this, the provider must sign an attestation confirming receipt of the funds as well as agree to the Terms and Conditions of payment. This can be done on the Provider Relief Fund Application and Attestation Portal, which can be found here.
If a recipient has chosen to reject their funds, the attestation still must be completed on the same website, though they should specify that they are rejecting the given funds. The recipient must also return their funds within 15 calendar days.
The second reporting period is currently open for providers who received one or more PRF payments that exceed $10,000 in aggregate, from July 1st to December 31st, 2020. This reporting period will close on March 31st, 2022.
To date, HHS has not laid out further plans regarding fund allocation. If details change, we will keep you up-to-date with the developments.