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HHS: Protect Your Relief Funds by Satisfying New Reporting Rule

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HHS: Protect Your Relief Funds by Satisfying New Reporting Rule

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HHS Relief Fund Reporting original

You can breathe a temporary sigh of relief on your struggle to nail down the ambiguities for your July 10 HHS relief fund reporting. HHS recently released new guidance giving you some extra time and details on the requirements you need to meet.

When the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) swiftly distributed millions of dollars in financial relief under the CARES Act, they provided limited guidance on how you could actually adhere to their rules. With this recent update, you’ll be able to more easily obey their relief fund reporting requirements, as well as ensure you are compliantly using the money you received.

Initial HHS relief fund reporting requirements, outlined in Terms & Conditions, indicated that when your practice received more than $150,000 in funds, you must submit a report to the Secretary and the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. The report had no specific form but needed to detail how much money you received and how you spent it. The first report original due date was July 10, or as the terms stated no more than 10 days after the end of each calendar quarter, beginning with the quarter ending June 30.

HHS Relief Fund Reporting Requirements 

HHS modified this guidance on June 13 essentially waiving the July 10 deadline, stating that “Recipients of Provider Relief Fund payments do not need to submit a separate quarterly report to HHS or the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. HHS will develop a report containing all information necessary for recipients of Provider Relief Fund payments to comply with this provision.”

You don’t need to scurry to get a report in by July 10, but don’t mistake that for a free pass. Here’s how the new process works:

  1. Your Payment Info Appears on Public Site: Your name will be listed along with your payment amount on HHS COVID-19 Financial Assistance public website as a practice that agreed to the Provider Relief Fund Terms & Conditions. This satisfies the initial level of the reporting requirements – the ones specified in the CARES Act.
  2. Relief Funds Usage Report Details Coming Soon: To meet HHS criteria, you will have to submit future reports describing how you use your relief funds. Look for future guidance on the required format, content and due date(s).

Allowable Expenses for HHS Relief Fund Reporting

To protect your practice against audits and fines you should already be keeping accurate detailed records of how much money you received and how you are spending it. This also means using the funds only for allowable expenses.

The HHS Terms & Conditions state that Provider Relief Fund payments will be used only to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus and shall reimburse the Recipient only for healthcare-related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to coronavirus. That’s a little ambiguous considering if you interpret that incorrectly you could face COVID-19 fraud from the Department of Justice.

Healthcare Related Expenses Considered Due to Coronavirus

HHS also updated their FAQ June 19 related to the Provider Relief Fund, This update explains that “healthcare related expenses attributable to coronavirus” is a broad term that may cover a range of items and services purchased to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, including:

  • Materials: Supplies and equipment used to provide healthcare services for possible or actual COVID-19 patients
  • Education: Workforce training
  • Centers: Developing and staffing emergency operation centers
  • Testing: Reporting COVID-19 test results to federal, state, or local governments
  • Infrastructure Development: Building or constructing temporary structures to expand capacity for COVID-19 patient care or to provide healthcare services to non-COVID-19 patients in a separate area from where COVID-19 patients are being treated
  • Resource Expansion and Preservation: Acquiring additional resources, including facilities, equipment, supplies, healthcare practices, staffing, and technology to expand or preserve care delivery.

You can use the funds for any of the above related expenses that you incurred before you received your payment. But heed caution when reporting any eligible expenses dated prior to Jan. 1. COVID-19 infection numbers were low in the US in January. Therefore, the government will most likely not accept that any of your expenses prior to the start of the new year were due to the coronavirus.

Lost Revenues You Can Track to COVID-19

HHS defines “lost revenues that are attributable to coronavirus” as any revenue that you lost due to coronavirus. This may include revenue losses associated with

  • Decreased patient volume: Fewer outpatient visits
  • Fewer surgeries: Canceled elective procedures or services, or
  • More uninsured: Increased uncompensated care.

You can use these funds to pay for things that your lost revenue would have covered, as long as that cost prevents, prepares for, or responds to coronavirus. Funds that meet this rule include:

  • Salaries: Employee or contractor payroll
  • Medical costs: Employee health insurance
  • Overhead: Rent or mortgage payments
  • Leases: Equipment lease payments
  • Software: Electronic health record licensing fees

How you calculate your lost revenue is up to you so long as it’s a “reasonable method.” HHS offers suggestions such as comparing your projected pre-COVID revenue to your actual revenue for March/April 2020, or comparing your same two-month 2020 revenue to 2019’s.

The HHS Emergency Relief Funds have a ton more rules you must follow to protect your practice from financial penalties for noncompliance.

To help you ensure your compliance with HHS guidelines, healthcare attorneys, Kristyn DeFilipp, Esq., Daphne Kackloudis, Esq., and Ashley Watson, Esq, recently presented an online training that is available for you to access. Their online training “Comply with Strict HHS & PPP COVID-19 Rules to Keep More Money” will give you the practical advice you need to keep out of hot water with HHS.

Source: CARES Act Provider Relief Fund Frequently Asked Questions

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