October 5, 2020 – Portal for Reporting How Relief Money Was Spent Opens Jan. 15 — With a Change

The HHS portal will be open for 30 days, and providers have to adopt a new way of calculating revenues lost due to the pandemic. As APTA reported on Sept. 23, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is continuing to provide details on how providers who received relief funds need to account for how the money was spent, with the latest details including a change in how lost revenue should be calculated. That shift has raised concerns, with critics saying that the new approach may increase the number of recipients who have to return funds, and could make it hard for some smaller businesses to even come up with the calculations in the first place.

The change is part of a recently announced shift in HHS’ plans for how relief fund recipients are to report use of the money, from a quarterly reporting system to a one-time accounting delivered via an online portal. HHS later confirmed that the portal will open on Jan. 15. Feb. 15 will be the first reporting deadline for all providers on the use of funds, and July 31 will be the final reporting deadline for providers who did not fully expend the funds before Dec. 31, 2020.

Information providers can expect to provide for the reporting requirements include lost revenues, expenses attributable to coronavirus, basic organization information, other assistance received in 2020, and non-financial information (employees, patients, etc.).

Among the reporting requirements released with the updated guidance on Sept. 19 is a change that has sparked criticism from the American Hospital Association and other organizations — a new definition of “lost revenue” no longer based on revenue lost due to the pandemic, but instead represented as a negative change in year-over-year net patient care operating income.

According to a letter submitted to HHS by AHA, the new formula is “unfair and unrealistic.” AHA believes organizations that moved aggressively to reduce costs during the pandemic may find that the comparison between 2019 and 2020 reflects a difference that’s lower than the payments they received, requiring them to return money to HHS. The AHA letter states that this problem is likely to affect “rural hospitals and those serving high numbers of low-income, elderly, and severely ill patients, particularly in vulnerable communities.”

Regularly check the HHS CARES Act Provider Relief Fund webpage, and sign up to receive HHS press releases, an option available at the bottom of the HHS News webpage.