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ACP: Now Is the Time to Apply for the Next Round of Distributions From the Provider Relief Fund

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Funding eligibility has been expanded and also applies to those who already received PRF money

Oct. 23, 2020 (ACP) – The American College of Physicians is urging members to take advantage of a new round of distributions from the Provider Relief Fund that will send $20 billion to medical practices across the country.

“I would encourage all of our members to apply, even if they've already received distributions,” said Shari Erickson, ACP vice president for governmental affairs and medical practice. “These funds are being provided without a need for repayment, which is obviously extremely helpful during this difficult time for physicians and their practices.”

The $20 billion represents the third phase of the federal government's provider relief funding program, which previously provided distributions of $100 billion. Any physician or clinician can apply for a share of the $20 billion, including those who already received Provider Relief Fund money.

Previous distributions left some practices with minimal financial support for a variety of reasons – for example, if they served a small Medicare population, Erickson said. “Now they have an opportunity to apply to get more,” she said.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has announced that two other groups are now eligible for funding: those who started practicing in 2020 and certain behavioral health clinicians who previously couldn't apply.

According to HHS, “the new Phase 3 General Distribution is designed to balance an equitable payment of 2 percent of annual revenue from patient care for all applicants plus an add-on payment to account for revenue losses and expenses attributable to COVID-19.”

The 2% grants are based on all revenue that practices receive from all payers, not just the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Erickson said.

The application process is fairly simple, Erickson said, but the filing deadline is coming soon on Nov. 6. “Twenty billion sounds like a lot, but it will go quickly,” she said. “Don't wait to apply until the last day. It's not guaranteed that there will be funds left.”

However, this may not be the last chance for physicians to get financial support. Erickson said there's more money – about $55 billion – still allocated to the Provider Relief Fund. “We don't know exactly how HHS might decide to distribute those remaining funds,” she said.

For more information about the federal Provider Relief Fund, visit hhs.gov/providerrelief.

ACP also wants members to know that the federal government via Congress and the president has relaxed repayment terms for $100 billion in loans given to clinicians, physicians and hospitals that work with Medicare patients. The funds were provided via the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Programs.

“Providers that received the advanced and accelerated payments were scheduled to begin repayment of those loans in August 2020, but CMS delayed the start of repayment at that time,” reports the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Congress gave hospitals and other providers that received Medicare accelerated and advance payments one year from when the first loan payment was made to begin making repayments – delaying the start of the repayment period to spring of 2021. These modified repayment terms are more favorable than those that are typically attached to loans provided through the accelerated and advance payment programs.”

Erickson said this change is a “big deal.” Many ACP members were worried that they'd need to start paying the loans back now at 100%. “Now they don't have to start repaying the loans until early spring of next year at a reduced amount overall and with reduced interest,” she said. “ACP has been advocating for this, so we're really pleased that it was taken care of.”

More Information

Additional resources to help physicians and their practices deal with COVID-19 are available on the Practice Resources section of the ACP website.

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Back to the October 23, 2020 issue of ACP Advocate