The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Wednesday that over $40 billion in additional funding would be provided to reimburse health care providers during the COVID-19 crisis. A chunk of that money will go to further support home health agencies.
To distribute the $40 billion, HHS plans to allocate $20 billion for general reimbursement while sending $10 billion to providers and facilities in COVID-19 hot spots. HHS also plans to give $10 billion to rural health care providers, sending $400 million more to the Indian Health Service.
Imark Billing CEO Lynn Labarta — a home health billing specialist — clarified how that money will be spent in a note shared with Home Health Care News.
“As it relates to home health providers, an additional $20 billion is being distributed based on each provider’s revenue data, taking into account what each provider received in the first tranche,” Labarta wrote. “The end result will be that the entire $50 billion in general provider funding will have been distributed proportional to the providers’ share of 2018 net patient revenue. All facilities and providers with a Medicare Provider Number are eligible for these funds.”
The distribution is set to begin Friday, and the payments will go out on a weekly basis, according to Labarta.
That original round of payments was dispensed based on providers’ Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) revenue in 2019.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a press call Wednesday that HHS was aware that providers with a smaller share of revenue coming from Medicare patients got the short end of the stick in the first round. That would be rectified in the second, he said.
“We said we would make up for that in the second round,” Azar said. “The $20 billion will be allocated so that providers’ share of [the money] is based on the net patient revenue they received from all sources in 2018.”
The rural funding is also worth noting, as providers in those areas are gearing up for their own bouts against the COVID-19 virus outbreak. Patients in more isolated, low-income areas could be more affected by the virus than other populations.
“The distribution of health care status across the United States is not an even distribution,” Chris Sloan, an associate principal at Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm Avalere Health, previously told HHCN. “People are not at the same level of health across all counties. It varies dramatically — and it varies based on a lot of different things.”
Rural health care operators also often have lower margins than providers elsewhere, which justifies the specific funding for those areas.
William A. Dombi — the president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) — expressed optimism in regards to the funding on a webinar Wednesday, saying that it will provide a “significant” amount of financial support for providers.
“The home care and hospice community is very grateful for all the support that has been provided to help keep health care available in the U.S.,” Dombi told HHCN in an email. “The pandemic has been significantly disruptive and destabilizing to home care and hospice providers. This support is essential to maintaining the care delivery system that over 12 million people depend on every year.”
In an effort to prevent fraud, HHS will require providers to submit documentation through an online portal.
“Congress has entrusted us with an immense amount of money to send to providers and we will be clear and careful about how we’re doing it,” Azar said.