Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Extend Provider Relief Spending Deadline

Inside Health Policy

July 30, 2021 9:34 pm

A bipartisan group of lawmakers want to extend the provider relief spending deadline for certain providers until at least the end of 2021, introducing legislation in both houses about a month after HHS stopped short of the complete extension for which providers, lawmakers and hospitals had asked. While the American Hospital Association and Medical Group Management Association support the bill, the measure would only affect providers who received relief in the initial distributions.

After weeks of pressure, HHS announced on June 11 it would tie spending deadlines to when providers received their relief instead of allow for a blanket extension until the end of 2021 like some providers advocated for. The department created four relief payments periods that give providers one year to spend their funds.

Those who received more than $10,000 in relief between April 10, 2020 to June 30, 2020 are in the process of reporting to HHS how they used that funding. They have until Sept. 30 to submit all their financial information, and recipients have 30 days beyond that to return any unused provider relief.

If passed, the bicameral bill would extend the spending deadline for this first group of recipients through Dec. 31 or the end of the public health emergency, whichever is later. Reps. Cindy Axne (D-IA) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) said in a joint statement Thursday (July 29) an extension is necessary because some providers postponed spending their relief due to HHS’ inconsistent, confusing guidance.

Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) introduced the same bill in the senate.

Claire Ernst, MGMA government affairs director, said many of her organization’s members are subject to first spending deadline and an extension would give them the flexibility to address rising COVID-19 cases and use the funds to pay for new protection requirements laid out in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration emergency temporary standards.

She added MGMA’s goal is for lawmakers to pass the bill before the first reporting period is over in about two months so providers don’t have to report again or, if applicable, try to get returned, unused funds back from HHS.

As the bills only apply to the first provider relief reporting group, it’s not yet clear how it might affect other spending deadlines. The next provider relief spending deadline is Dec. 31 for providers who received relief anytime from July 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020.