Provider Relief Reporting Portal Section Goes Live With Brief Outage

Inside Health Policy

July 2, 2021 2:12 pm

Provider relief recipients gained access to their exact reporting requirements Thursday (July 1) after waiting nearly six months — and for some a couple hours more due to the volume of viewers — and received welcome news on details surrounding how HHS wants them to apply their relief to revenue lost due to COVID-19. The agency in charge of distributing the funds, Health Resources and Services Administration, told Inside Health Policy some resources were unavailable from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday.

The reporting section of the portal went live after weeks of lobbying by hospitals, providers and lawmakers asking HHS to extend the provider relief spending deadline beyond Wednesday (June 30). HHS told Inside Health Policy it would not grant another extension, arguing its four payments periods and deadlines announced June 11 are fair.

Provider relief reporting has also had a complicated history as Congress had to step in late last year to clear up the definition of lost revenue to mean revenue providers lost due to the pandemic. HHS’ initial interpretation had been much different, asking providers to compare how much they earned in 2019 to 2020. This sparked concern that certain providers, including those who reduced operating costs during 2020 so they could make up for the loss in revenue, might have to return the relief.

Because of Congress’ changes to the definition, HHS removed the first financial reporting deadline of Feb. 15 but encouraged providers on Jan. 15 to begin signing up for the reporting portal, even though the details and form were not yet available.

The big day for providers who received $10,000 or more in provider relief before June 30, 2020 came after the first spending deadline Wednesday (June 30) and reporting portal resources went live. The next spending deadline is Dec. 31 and it applies to providers who received relief July 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020. Providers will have 90 days to submit their information after the spending deadline.

Richard Kes, health care industry senior analyst at the audit, tax and consulting firm RSM, said the new guidance is welcome news as it says providers can calculate lost revenue on a quarter-by-quarter basis versus the whole year that some advocates expected.

This means providers don’t have to worry about quarters where they were more profitable — likely the last quarter of 2020 and early 2021 — offsetting the severe losses they experienced in other quarters. The new HHS guidance also says providers can use their relief received in one quarter retroactively to pay for expenses incurred in previous quarters, though it’s ambiguous on whether that applies to lost revenue too.

“So you can use expenditures in 2020 to apply towards [provider relief] funding received in period four, if you will, or period three, which I think it makes sense to me. It’s all one pandemic, you know, maybe we received cash in one period, but we experienced some expenses in a prior period,” Kes said.

Though one downside for providers is the administrative burden of the other requirements that ask them to report their full-time staff and how many beds their facility has, Kes said.

“If this is what it takes to get that funding, I think they’re[clients] willing to do the work. It just seems like a lot of informational requests that are outside of the specific kind of terms and conditions around you need to use this to offset expenses or lost revenue,” Kes said.

Meanwhile, Kes said he wasn’t surprised that HHS’ site experienced an outage on its first day, estimating there were probably thousands of providers bombarding the site for details on the reporting requirements.

“For good, bad or otherwise, the provider relief fund has been almost 95% of the conversations I’ve had with my clients over the last — you know, probably since March of 2020. I mean, it’s been a very significant area of discussion,” Kes said.