Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services fast-tracked assistance payments to providers hit financially by COVID-19.
Healthcare providers, including radiologists, received $34 billion in accelerated payments during the past week, according to a letter released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
The relief effort, first announced of March 30, is intended to assist physician practices navigate any revenue troubles associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. In the weeks since the program was announced, more than 25,000 requests have been submitted for assistance.
Given the urgent circumstances, officials said, the agency has truncated request processing time from several weeks down to roughly 4-to-6 days.
“Healthcare providers are making massive financial sacrifices to care for the influx of coronavirus patients,” said CMS administrator Seema Verma in the April 7 statement. “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.”
The payments, she added, will help these providers and practices stay solvent.
In fact, she noted, roughly 17,000 applications – nearly 70 percent – have been approved as of April 6. By comparison, the agency had only approved approximately 100 such requests in the five years running up to the outbreak, most of which were tied to natural disasters, such as hurricanes.
Payment recipients include Medicare Part A providers, including hospitals, as well as doctors, non-physician practitioners, and durable medical equipment suppliers who operate under Medicare Part B. It should be noted at all providers, including radiologists, under most circumstances will need to repay these loans within a year of receiving the funds.
Verma pointed out that these payments are separate from the $100 billion that will be available for provider grants that do not require repayment through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The goal is to begin distributing $30 billion this week, she said.