HHS offers $4 billion additional relief to healthcare providers serving rural populations

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), announced it would be making an approximately $3 billion in funding available to hospitals serving a large percentage of vulnerable populations on thin margins and approximately $1 billion to specialty rural hospitals, urban hospitals with certain rural Medicare designations, and hospitals in small metropolitan areas, according to a statement released by the agency.

The funds are in addition to funds made available earlier in the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. On June 9, the HHS announced plans to distribute $10 billion in Provider Relief Fund payments to safety net hospitals serving our most vulnerable citizens. The agency expanded the criterion for payment qualification so that certain acute care hospitals meeting the revised profitability threshold of less than of 3 percent averaged consecutively over two or more of the last five cost reporting periods, as reported to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in its Cost Report filings, would be eligible for payment. 

Additionally, in May, the HHS announced $10 billion in funding to almost 4,000 rural health care providers including hospitals, health clinics, and health centers. The agency expanded the existing payment formula to include certain special rural Medicare designation hospitals in urban areas as well as others who provide care in smaller non-rural communities. These included some suburban hospitals that are not considered rural but serve rural populations and operate with smaller profit margins and limited resources than larger hospitals. 

“We've been distributing the Provider Relief Funds as quickly as possible to those providers who have been hardest hit by the pandemic," said HHS Secretary Alex Azar in the statement. “Close work with stakeholders informed how we targeted this new round of funds to hard-hit safety-net and rural providers."

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