Health

Biden administration releases $25b in Covid relief for providers after delay

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Friday announced plans to release more than $25 billion to health care providers to help with costs related to the Covid-19 pandemic, eleven months after the last major round of funding was released.

The funds will be the latest tranche from the total $187 billion lawmakers set aside to help health care providers battling the pandemic. Health care providers and lawmakers from both parties had in recent weeks ratcheted up pressure on the Department of Health and Human Services to release billions in unused funds.

The latest funding amounts to less than half of the total unspent provider grants HHS has left, according to a government watchdog report from May that showed $52.2 billion in funds yet to be doled out to providers. Lawmakers considered using some of the unspent money to pay for infrastructure projects, but ultimately decided against it.

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The grants announced on Friday are divided into two different portions: $17 billion for providers generally who can prove they have losses, and $8.5 billion for rural health care providers.

Providers can apply for a share of $17 billion in grants if they can prove they had losses or expenses due to Covid-19 between July 2020 and the end of March — a timeframe that leaves out hospitals struggling due to the ongoing surge, largely fueled by the Delta variant, that’s currently filling emergency rooms and delaying  elective procedures.

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Smaller providers will be reimbursed at a higher rate than larger ones, the department said.

The release will include the first grants from the fund for rural health care providers championed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) in the major Covid-19 relief package Congress passed this spring.

The first deadline for providers to report how they used grants they have already received is coming up at the end of September, but HHS on Friday announced a two-month grace period. HHS has hired several firms to conduct audits on the program.



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