Deadline approaches for doctors to report on use of COVID-19 relief money

What are the news: Physicians who received more than $10,000 in single or aggregate payments from the federal Provider Relief Fund (PRF) to cover COVID-19-related expenses or losses during the second half of 2020 have until March 31 to report on how they used the money.

Reporting is done through the PRF reporting portal available on the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) website, where resources such as webinars and fact sheets can be found to help physicians comply with requirements.

HRSA, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, says PRF recipients must only have used payments for eligible expenses, including services rendered and lost earnings for money received from July 1. as of Dec. 31, 2020, which physicians had until Dec. 31, 2021 to spend.

According to the program’s terms and conditions, eligible physicians must use the money “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus, and for related expenses or lost income attributable to the coronavirus.”

Funding received through the program is considered a grant and not a loan. This means that it will not have to be repaid unless the conditions are not met or the money has not been spent before the end of the period, in this case, by December 31, 2021 .

Physicians are prohibited from using PRF grant money for expenses or losses when another source has, or is obligated to, reimburse those expenses or losses.

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If the money was deposited in an interest-bearing account, the amount of interest earned should be reported. If unused funds are returned, the amount of interest earned must also be returned, according to the HRSA.

If the returned funds were not in an interest-bearing account, “there is no obligation for the vendor to return any additional amount other than the returned Vendor Relief Fund payment,” HRSA says. Learn more from HRSA about returning unused funds.

July 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020 is considered “Period 2” under the PRF program.

Going forward, “Period 3” ran from January 1 to June 30, 2021. Receipt of any PRF payments totaling more than $10,000 during this period must be reported between July 1 and September 30, 2022.

A fourth round of payments was made last month with $560 million split between 4,100 physicians and non-physician providers.

Why it matters: The PRF, which was created as part of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act), had distributed $42.8 billion to more than 300,000 eligible doctors and other healthcare professionals as of November 2021.

At the start of the pandemic, medical practice revenues fell sharply as patient volumes fell. After February 2020, physicians saw an average drop of 32% in revenue, with in-person visits falling from 97 per week to 57, according to an AMA survey of 3,500 physicians conducted in the summer of 2020.

The AMA successfully advocated for billions in emergency funds to help medical practices remain viable and continue to provide needed care through the CARES Act and subsequent emergency companion legislation. The AMA has also successfully advocated for legislation to ensure that PRF grants are not considered taxable income.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to negatively impact physician practices in terms of declining revenues and increasing costs. While early federal financial assistance programs have been helpful to physician practices that have applied, it appears that the road to recovery, especially for smaller physician-owned practices, remains difficult.

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Learn more: For all other questions related to PRF reports, call the vendor hotline at 866-569-3522; for TTY, dial 711. The line is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. CST, but these hours are subject to change.

Get comprehensive guidance for AMA physicians on financial and business operations during COVID-19. This includes a Guide to Financial Aid for Physicians Practice (PDF).

Also, check out the AMA’s recently updated Physician’s Guide to keep your practice open.

Stay up to date with the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines and variants, as well as trusted information straight from leading experts and physicians with the “AMA COVID-19 Update”. Watch every episode by subscribing to the AMA’s YouTube channel or the audio-only podcast version.

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