July 2, 2020
The note below from Stephanie Katz, Director of Federal Policy and Advocacy at the National Council discusses an ongoing conversation they have been having with leaders at HHS about the numerous challenges associated with providers applying for and received targeted federal aid distributions over the past several months. As an example, It is our understanding that (as of last week while 320,000 eligible providers received an initial check from HHS representing some or all of their Medicaid claims volume in 2018, only 15,000 providers have (as of last week) received a second check from HHS. This outcome is not what Congress intended and we have been advocating alongside our colleagues at the National Council to fix the problem such that all providers receive a total of 2% of their gross receipts for care provided, as was the intent of the Provider Relief Funds.
Please read the communication sent to all National Council Association Executives (below) yesterday as an ‘fyi’. We will continue to support the National Council’s efforts as they work with HHS and their national partners to rectify the situation. Keep your fingers and toes crossed. As always, please do not make financial decisions based on this information.
More to follow.
Dear Association Executives – As many of you know, the National Council and 26 additional behavioral health organizations sent a letter to Eric Hargan, the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, calling for an additional distribution of CARES Act authorized Provider Relief Funds for behavioral health providers. The letter prompted Deputy Secretary Hargan to initiate a conference call with the signatories to discuss the difficulties providers have had engaging with the Provider Relief Fund distribution portals and the negligible amount of relief monies providers have received.
Chuck participated in the conference call with Deputy Secretary Hargan yesterday afternoon, and wanted to take this opportunity to let you know what was discussed and what it means for behavioral health providers moving forward. The Key Takeaway: There will be a way for eligible health care providers to receive 2% of gross receipts from patient care. HHS intends to make an announcement soon and we will be working with the Department to help make sure that the message gets out.
Chuck was provided the opportunity to describe the need of behavioral health providers in terms of lost revenues, closures of programs and services, and lay-offs/furloughs. Chuck was also able to describe the confusion surrounding the various provider portals and association Provider Relief Fund distributions. Simply put, providers were unsure when to apply to which targeted distribution. Given that Medicare represents only 5-7% of annual revenue for behavioral health providers, many providers believed that their financial viability was better served should they wait for the Medicaid and CHIP distribution. They proceeded in what was believed to be the best interest of their practices, unaware that they would be prohibited from receiving funds from the Medicaid and CHIP targeted distribution.
Deputy Secretary Hargan spoke to the intention of the previously released Provider Relief Fund distributions – to “true-up” both Medicare and Medicaid providers. Additionally, Deputy Secretary Hargan acknowledged that a number of provider types have experienced the same issues and confusion in engaged the portals and accessing needed relief funds.
Deputy Secretary Hargan agreed that the behavioral health needs in our nation will continue and indicated that there will be a future “tranche” of monies dedicated to providers based on revenue lost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that all providers have the ability to access 2% of gross receipts from patient care as a source of relief. Importantly, Deputy Secretary Hargan also indicated that organizations who were unable to receive the full 2% from previous distributions would have preference in the next distribution of funding. Lastly, Deputy Secretary Hargan reinforced that the Medicaid and CHIP Targeted Distribution is still open (it is scheduled to close on July 20th) and encouraged eligible organizations to apply.
The Key Takeaway: There will be a way for all eligible providers to receive 2% of gross receipts from patient care.
Thank you all so much and please do not hesitate to reach out should you have any questions.
Director, Federal Policy and Advocacy
National Council for Behavioral Health