The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has disbursed nearly $34 billion in the past week to healthcare providers through the expansion of the Accelerated and Advance Payment Program, according to a news release.
The payments went to healthcare providers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic to ensure providers and suppliers have the resources necessary to battle the disease, the release says.
“Healthcare providers are making massive financial sacrifices to care for the influx of coronavirus patients,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma says in the release. “Many are rightly complying with federal recommendations to delay non-essential elective surgeries to preserve capacity and personal protective equipment. They shouldn’t be penalized for doing the right thing. Amid a public health storm of unprecedented fury, these payments are helping providers and suppliers – so critical to defeating this terrible virus – stay afloat.”
Due to changes made to the process in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, processing times for a request of an accelerated or advance payment have been streamlined to between four and six days from the previous timeframe of three to four weeks, the release says.
More than 25,000 requests for these payments were received by CMS in a little over a week. Of those, 17,000 have already been approved. Prior to the pandemic, CMS had approved only about 100 total requests in the past five years with most being tied to natural disasters like hurricanes, according to the release.
These payments are available to Part A providers, including hospitals, and Part B suppliers, including doctors, non-physician practitioners, and durable medical equipment suppliers. Most providers are eligible for three months of their Medicare reimbursements, but some providers can receive up to six months, the release says.
Advance and Accelerated payments are a loan that must be paid back and are funded from the Hospital Insurance and Supplementary Medical Insurance trust funds which are used to pay out Medicare payments every day. CMS will begin to apply claims payments to offset the advance/accelerated payments 120 days after disbursement. While most hospitals will have a year to repay the balance, most physicians will have 210 days, the release says.
A fact sheet on these payments and how to submit a request can be found here.
It is worth noting that this funding is separate from the $100 billion provided by the CARES Act. CARES Act funds do not need to be paid back and HHS will be providing information on how healthcare providers can access those funds, according to the release.