House government funding bill relieves providers of Medicare advance payments

The House has passed a government short-term funding bill that extends the deadline for providers to begin repaying Medicare prepayment loans until the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.

The bill the House passed on Tuesday night is a major victory for provider groups who feared they might struggle to pay off Medicare loans starting in August. The bill has yet to pass through the Senate controlled by the GOP.

The continuing resolution, which funds the federal government until Dec. 11, also lowers the interest rate for payments made under Medicare’s early and early payment program to 4%, from 10.25%.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) paid more than $ 100 billion in down payments in March to providers criticized by the pandemic. The payments are basically loans that CMS recovers by entering Medicare payments to providers. This process begins 120 days after receipt of the first payment.

RELATED: Some Providers Face Discouraging Repayment Schedule for Medicare Advance Loans

But the bill would give hospital providers one year before Medicare can claim their payments and other Part A and B providers have a maximum of 210 days.

It would also give providers 29 months from the first payment to fully repay the loan amount. Currently, CMS gives suppliers one year to reimburse in full.

In addition to changes to reimbursement terms, the bill also delays $ 4 billion in payment cuts for disproportionately apart hospitals that were supposed to come into effect under the Affordable Care Act. The cuts will now be postponed to December.

The bill received applause from the hospital industry, which lobbied Congress for help as providers still battle the pandemic and could not afford to seize Medicare payments.

“Our hospitals continue to experience the high costs and revenue losses associated with COVID-19, and they welcome the relief this continued resolution would bring,” said Bruce Siegel, President and CEO of Essential Hospitals of America , which represents the hospitals of the safety net.

The Federation of American Hospitals said earlier this week ahead of the House vote that the prepayment program is “a vital lifeline for hospitals and healthcare providers during the pandemic that has left hospitals and providers to maintain access to critical patient care. But the persistent pressures of the current crisis have necessitated a revision of the repayment conditions. “

The bill, which received White House approval, is now heading to the Senate. The chamber must make a decision on legislation to avoid the government shutdown when funding runs out on September 30.

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