Pallone and Neal Demand Transparency into Methodology and Distribution of COVID-19 Health Care Provider Relief Funds
Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma today raising a series of concerns over the methodology used to distribute and the lack of transparency into how COVID-19 relief funds and loans for health care providers are being spent.
“We write to raise serious concerns about the Provider Relief Fund and the Accelerated and Advance Payment Programs,” Pallone and Neal wrote. “With respect to each, we are concerned about the lack of transparency with Congress and the American people about how funds are being spent or loans are being made. We also have grave concerns regarding the methodology being used to distribute $175 billion Congress appropriated for the Provider Relief Fund.”
The Chairmen’s letter documents concerns with how the programs are being run, in particular the Administration’s methodologies for distributing funding that has shortchanged a number of critical providers and makes clear that more transparency is needed for Congress to accurately assess the ongoing needs of health care providers as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds.
“The Administration’s efforts to establish the Provider Relief Fund to date has been at best, a series of missteps, and at worst, a disregard of Congress’ intent for the program,” Pallone and Neal continued in their letter.
Pallone and Neal wrote that when Congress passed the CARES Act, it was clear that the funding provided to HHS for the Provider Relief Fund was for the express purpose, “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” The two Chairs voiced concern that some of the funding formulas adopted to date fail to target funding based on the statutory framework relating to COVID-19 driven costs. In fact, the Chairs write that the level of funding appears to be, “completely disconnected from need.”
The Chairmen requested an immediate response from HHS regarding documents and information pertaining to the Provider Relief Fund and the Accelerated and Advanced Payment Program. Pallone and Neal also wrote that if HHS is unable to immediately provide the information, it should provide a timeline of when the Committees would receive the requested information.
While recognizing the incredible demands on the Department at this difficult time, the Chairmen emphasized that, “This crisis demands that we work swiftly and based on the best data available. Currently, despite repeated requests, this Administration has prevented Congress from obtaining the data that the Department has available on funding for our health care system, data that is necessary to inform near future legislation. We look forward to receiving this information so that we can conduct the business the American people expect of us. We look forward to having you join us at the earliest possible date in each of our Committees to discuss these and other COVID-related issues.”
To read the full letter, click HERE.