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In a notice published on April 7, 2022, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the division of HHS that manages the distribution and oversight of CARES Act Provider Relief Funds (PRFs), requested comments from stakeholders on proposed changes to its Information Collection Request (ICR) Form that it will be submitting to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The approved ICR uses an OMB form that is set to expire on January 1, 2023, so HRSA is requesting comments before submitting revisions to OMB. This is the first opportunity for providers who were subject to the first two PRF reporting periods (Period 1 and Period 2) to comment on the reporting program and provide feedback on requirements related to those reports. In addition to revising the PRF reporting form, HRSA is looking to add reporting for the American Rescue Plan (ARP) rural provider program to the ICR.

The ARP rural provider program was put in place by Congress to provide payments to providers and suppliers who served rural Medicaid, CHIP and Medicare beneficiaries from January 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020. The ARP Rural plan is distinct from the PRF, but it has similar reporting requirements and uses the PRF reporting portal for applications.
Continue Reading HRSA asks for comment on provider relief fund and ARP rural reporting requirements

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through its Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) office, is taking action to recoup CARES Act funding from health care providers who received relief funding but did not meet the reporting requirements set by HRSA.

To receive COVID-19 relief funding from HRSA pursuant to the CARES Act, providers had to attest to compliance with the terms and conditions promulgated by HRSA. Recipients of the funds must agree to the terms and conditions specific to the Phase in which they received funding distribution. Those terms and conditions evolved over time, with different reporting periods for each wave of funding. Under all waves, failure to report to HRSA regarding the use or allocation of received funds constitutes noncompliance with HRSA’s terms and conditions and requires repayment of the funds.

Providers who completed reporting, but reported unused funds, will have 30 days from the end of their specific reporting deadline to return all unused funds.
Continue Reading Provider relief fund reporting: HRSA to recoup funds from providers who didn’t meet deadlines

In its February 14, 2022 advisory opinion the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) allowed a Home Health Agency (HHA), that predominantly serves Medicaid eligible children, to pay the nurse certification program tuition costs for new employees seeking to work as certified nurse aides (CNAs). According to OIG, the tuition payments are permissible under the bona fide employee safe harbor.

The Anti-Kickback statute prohibits a person from knowingly and willfully offering, soliciting or receiving any remuneration, directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, in cash or in kind, in exchange for or to induce the referral of any item or services covered by a federal health care program. However, the statute includes exemptions for certain situations, one of which involves certain payments to bona fide employees.

In this case, the OIG stated that it would not seek enforcement under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute or the Beneficiary Inducements Civil Monetary Penalty Statute as the arrangement to pay the tuition costs would not be deemed prohibited remuneration under either law. However, the advisory opinion was warranted as the tuition program had the added wrinkle of potentially being a benefit to the relatives of medically fragile children using the HHA’s services and charging those services to Medicaid.
Continue Reading OIG permits home health agency to pay nurse aide certification tuition costs

In a report released on September 2, 2021 the Biden administration announced its plan to help prepare the nation for future pandemic threats. In the report, named American Pandemic Preparedness: Transforming Our Capabilities, the administration described what it sees as the vital need to change the nation’s capabilities to better respond to any future pandemics or biological threats.

The report organizes the proposed actions under five pillars: (1) Transforming Medical Defenses, (2) Ensuring Situational Awareness, (3) Strengthening Public Health Systems, (4) Building Core Capabilities, and (5) Managing the Mission

The report calls for action to “not just refill our stockpiles, but also to transform our capabilities.” The report compares the proposed plan to the Apollo space program because of the importance that the administration is placing on the efforts as well as the proposed coordination among agencies and departments.

Ultimately, the administration is planning to create a centralized “mission control” that would work to coordinate resources and expertise from multiple agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services like the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (a component of the office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response), Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services, along with other cabinet-level departments such as the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and the Veterans Administration.

Continue Reading Biden administration looks to centralize pandemic response in preparedness plan