Good news for home healthcare organizations – more COVID-19 relief is on the way.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 has been signed by President Trump and will offer organizations much-needed assistance by extending some elements of the CARES Act and providing additional stimulus money.
Home healthcare organizations will be directly impacted by several portions of the legislation and need to prepare for these new opportunities.
An Extension of the Moratorium on Medicare Sequestration Payment Reduction
While legislators initially requested the moratorium of the 2% Medicare reimbursement reduction sequestration to last through the end of the public health emergency, it will definitely extend through the first quarter of 2021.
The moratorium has provided financial relief to providers suffering from lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic by halting the 2% across-the-board reductions in Medicare reimbursements, a 2013 addition to the Budget Control Act of 2011.
An Additional Investment in the Provider Relief Fund
Introduced in the CARES Act, the Provider Relief Fund was created to distribute funds to healthcare providers during the pandemic. Initially providing $175 billion, the federal government has added $3 billion to the support fund.
Payments were allocated to three phases, with phase 3 distribution starting in December 2020. The deadline to register for funds has passed, but providers still have the option to attest a payment, request COVID-19 testing reimbursement or report use of funds
A Boost for Small Businesses
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), created to provide loans to small businesses during the pandemic, has been reinstated after receiving $284 billion to distribute among qualified businesses. Known as the PPP second draw, it’s similar to the first round of loans in that the amount will be fully forgiven if at least 60% is used for payroll.
While the CARES Act permitted loans up to $10 million per business, the second draw is limited to up to $2 million per loan. Businesses that already received a PPP loan during the first rollout must meet certain specifications to participate in this round.
More business expense categories, like personal protective equipment and technology equipment, are now allowed under the second draw loans. Businesses have until March 31, 2021, to apply.
Prioritizing COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution and Surveillance
Free, approved COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed in a phased priority plan, with at-risk healthcare workers recommended for the first phase. The legislation includes funding for vaccine production, distribution, testing, tracing, surveillance and containment, as well as a targeted investment in underserved and at-risk populations.
Extending Medicaid Programs and Enhancing Protection
Several Medicaid programs that were slated to expire in 2020 have been extended, such as the protections against spousal impoverishment for partners of recipients of home- and community-based services (HCBS) and the Money Follows the Person (MFP) initiative, created to increase the use of HCBS.
Non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) will continue to be covered by Medicaid, despite an earlier proposition that it will be optional by state, while protections for beneficiaries receiving HCBS have been enhanced.
Be an Advocate for Caregivers and Patients
These home healthcare provisions are only made possible by the tireless efforts of advocates who work with state and national representatives and champion the benefits and necessity of care in the home. Join their efforts to help ensure the future of healthcare is in the home.