The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced June 30 as the deadline for providers to use the COVID-19 relief funds. The funds were provided to them by the CARES Act along with other pandemic legislation. The American Healthcare Association (AHA), which thinks the providers should be capable of using COVID-19 relief funds through the public health emergency (PHE) period, has asked HHS authority to extend the deadline.
Earlier this month, AHA told HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to let providers have more time to utilize the funds for lost revenues and pandemic-related expenses. However, HHS has set a deadline of June 30, 2021, for providers who have received aid from the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) – a $175B funding allocated only for the healthcare providers by the lawmakers through the CARES Act and succeeding pandemic legislation. The relief fund has been more like a lifeline for the hospitals and health systems.
Hospitals, along with the entire health system continue to sustain expenses that are related to COVID-19 cases including hospitalizations, ensuring an adequate workforce, acquiring equipment and supplies, pharmaceuticals, and other safety equipment, and maintaining the health status for every hospital patient. AHA President & CEO Richard J. Pollack feels that the providers should be able to apply their PRF funds towards these costs – which are likely to continue to incur beyond June 30 and through the end of the public health emergency period.
The hospitals have lost around $323.1B last year on the ground of pandemic-related costs and lost revenues due to an enormous decline in patient volumes. This year, hospitals and health systems will face a loss of approximately $53B to $122B, depending on various factors, including the success of vaccine rollout and other COVID-19 response factors. The PRF has helped the hospitals ensure patient and staff safety throughout the pandemic and has even helped some organizations stay open despite financial troubles.
With the number of COVID-19 cases down by a significant margin, the nation now focuses on successful vaccine rollout. However, the country is still facing 45,000 new cases of the virus each day on average, as per the data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Besides, around 4,640 patients per week are being admitted to hospitals on average due to COVID-19.
The new variants of the virus have been troubling the public health experts as few countries are facing worse surges. Vaccination drive in the US has slowed down as the state leaders are trying to cover the hard-to-reach communities and deal with vaccine hesitancy.
The COVID-19 PHE was recently extended by the HHS Secretary as he verified that a public health emergency still exists and all ongoing measures to streamline response efforts will be in effect. HHS, in recent meetings with state Governors, has indicated that the COVID-19 PHE is likely to extend through the end of this year. They have encouraged increased accessibility of healthcare through telehealth services, better federal funding for Medicaid, and continuous Medicaid enrollment along with several other healthcare priorities.