Independent Practices across the nation are struggling to keep their head above water due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, was signed into law at the end of March 2020 to empower businesses and independent practices to remain up and running despite the current health crisis.
Patient volumes are at an all-time low as providers are forced to cancel all non-COVID-19-related visits and it is taking a toll on providers. The CARES Act offers healthcare sector relief and support for practices like this through the duration of COVID-19.
What the CARES Act is Doing for Providers During COVID-19:
- Public Health Fund
For providers who are facing lost revenue or whose healthcare-related expenses are piling up, the CARES Act provided $100 billion to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund for eligible healthcare providers.
In order to receive funding through the CARES Act public health fund, providers must submit their applications to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) for review. This public Health fund will empower independent practices and providers to keep their doors open and their staff working while also connecting them to important digital telehealth resources. Other sections of the CARES Act detail funding/grant opportunities for eligible providers to promote the use of telehealth and other technology to continue offering care and billing for services throughout the duration of COVID-19.
- Increase Reimbursement
The CARES Act is also offering providers the chance to earn increased reimbursements with fewer constraints through a series of Medicare payment policy adjustments. This includes an added payment for inpatient cases related to COVID-19. The department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has increased reimbursements for Medicare patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 by 20% who are discharged during the pandemic. Providers who wish to participate in this adjustment must adhere to the condition codes set in place for COVID-19.
- Quicker Payments
In order to accelerate the rate at which providers are receiving their payment for series, the CARES Act is allowing providers to receive an advance on their Medicare reimbursements. Through the CMS accelerated payment policy, this applies to providers who are experiencing extraordinary circumstances and are experiencing financial tribulations as a result of COVID-19.
CMS states that the accelerated payment program, included in the CARES Act, was implemented “in order to increase cash flow to providers of services and suppliers impacted by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic.”
- Reduce Telehealth Regulations
Under the CARES Act, a temporary reduction in the number of telehealth restrictions and regulations have made it simpler for providers to offer it to their patients during COVID-19. These lifted restrictions revolve around the type of technology that is required of a provider in order to engage in a telehealth visit, the time-restrictions set in place regarding a patient-provider relationship, and more. Providers are also able to bill for over 80 new telehealth services through the duration of COVID-19, increasing profitability and revenue during financially stressful times.
Under the CARES Act eligible providers can request that HHS:
- Make accelerated payments to eligible hospitals on a periodic or lump sum basis
- Increase the amount of payment that would otherwise be made to hospitals under the program up to 100% (or, in the case of critical access hospitals, up to 125%)
- Extend the period that accelerated payments cover so that it covers up to a 6-month period.
- Provide up to 120 days before claims are offset to recoup the accelerated payment
- Allow not less than 12 months from the date of the first accelerated payment before requiring that the outstanding balance be paid in full.
To learn more about how the CARES Act and how your practice can continue growing revenue during COVID-19, click here.