Bipartisan House and Senate Committee Leaders Urge HHS to Disperse COVID-19 Relief Funds to Medicaid Providers
The Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Committees of jurisdiction over the Medicaid program wrote to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar today expressing concern over prolonged delays in disbursing funds from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF) for Medicaid-dependent providers.
The letter was signed by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), House Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR), Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) and Senate Finance Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR).
“We are concerned that the delay in disbursing funds from the [PHSSEF] for Medicaid-dependent providers could result in long term financial hardship for providers who serve some of our most vulnerable populations,” the bipartisan Committee leaders wrote. “It could also severely hamper their ability to continue to serve as essential providers amid the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. We write regarding the need for a dedicated distribution from the PHSSEF for providers who rely on Medicaid and to share our serious concerns with the ongoing delay of funding.”
In an effort to provide critical financial relief to health care providers struggling to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress acted swiftly to authorize and appropriate $175 billion to the PHSSEF. While funds have been allocated to providers based on Medicare reimbursements, total reimbursements and for Medicare-enrolled skilled nursing facilities in recent weeks, safety net providers that already operate on thin margins and depend on Medicaid for a large source of their payments have not yet received a meaningful allocation from the PHSSEF.
Providers that rely heavily, if not entirely, on Medicaid include home-and-community-based services providers, providers for individuals with disabilities, behavioral health providers, pediatricians, children’s hospitals, obstetricians and gynecologists, school-based providers and many other types of essential providers such as primary care providers and family practices.
Medicaid providers have diverse needs for relief funding and often operate on thin margins without the same reserves as other providers that have already received distributions from HHS. While some need assistance to help keep their doors open, others need financial assistance to maintain a workforce to serve those in need. These providers also often work in extremely close proximity to their patients, placing them at risk of COVID-19 transmission without adequate personal protective equipment.
In their letter, the Committee leaders requested answers to a series of questions by June 10, 2020, including:
- What is HHS’s timeline to release a dedicated tranche of funds for Medicaid-dependent providers?
- What level of funding does HHS plan to dedicate to Medicaid-dependent providers to ensure a meaningful and equitable distribution?
- What factors contributed to HHS waiting until May 1 to request Medicaid-dependent provider information from states?
To read the full letter, click HERE.