HHS begins sending $30B in relief funds to physicians
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced details of how the initial $30 billion in COVID-19 relief funds would be distributed to physicians and other Medicare providers and began distributing the funds April 10. HHS also clarified that practices that had ceased operations were eligible for relief payments as long as they had diagnosed, tested or cared for patients after Jan. 31, even if those individuals were seen for reasons unrelated to COVID-19.

As reported in last week’s COVID-19 Update, Congress provided relief to physician practices that are suffering financial loss due to COVID-19 by designating funding in the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

HHS is now distributing the initial $30 Billion in relief funds to providers based on their share of total Medicare FFS reimbursements in 2019. This distribution method is similar to what was suggested by the AMA, the ISMA and many other physician organizations in this letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

HHS has said it will focus on distributing the remaining $70 Billion in emergency funds to “providers in areas particularly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, rural providers, providers of services with lower shares of Medicare reimbursement or who predominantly serve the Medicaid population, and providers requesting reimbursement for the treatment of uninsured Americans.”

Eligibility for relief payments
Questions arose last week about wording on the HHS website suggesting that practices shuttered by the coronavirus lockdown were not eligible to receive relief payments. HHS has since clarified that, if you treated a patient after Jan. 31, 2020, you qualify for funds under this program regardless of the patient’s COVID-19 status.

If you are uncertain whether you are eligible for a payment, whether a payment has been sent or where it was sent, contact UHG’s Provider Relations Department at 866-569-3522.

How funds are being distributed
HHS has partnered with UnitedHealth Group (UHG) to deliver the stimulus payments.

If you are an eligible provider and previously set up direct deposit through CMS or UHG’s Optum Pay, you should receive payment from the initial $30 billion general distribution within the next week if you haven’t received it already. The automatic payments will come as an ACH via Optum Bank with “HHSPAYMENT” as the payment description. Payments are made based on Taxpayer Identification Numbers and will be sent to a large group’s central billing office.

If you or your practice are eligible but have not set up direct deposit thought Optum Pay, you will receive a check instead of a direct payment. If you would like to set up direct deposit now, call UHG’s Provider Relations Department at 866-569-3522.

Providers who have been allocated a payment must sign an attestation confirming receipt of the funds and agree to the Terms and Conditions within 30 days of payment. The CARES Provider Relief Fund Payment Attestation Portal will guide you through accepting the Terms and Conditions and attesting to receipt or rejection of the payments.

Complete details about the relief payments, including a link to the provider portal, may be found on this HHS website.