After Fronting $100B, CMS Suspends COVID-19 Medicare Payment Advance Program

Citing the steady release of grant money from the dedicated health care stimulus fund, the federal government on Sunday announced the immediate suspension of a program that provided advances of Medicare Part A and B reimbursements.

The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) halted the Advance Payment Program and indicated its intention to “reevaluate” the amounts of money paid out through the Accelerated Payment Program.

“The agency made this announcement following the successful payment of over $100 billion to health care providers and suppliers through these programs and in light of the $175 billion recently appropriated for health care provider relief payments,” CMS noted in its announcement.

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CMS initially rolled out the payment-advance program at the end of March, framing the initiative as a way for providers to fill in any financial gaps caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Before closing off the funding source on Sunday, CMS doled out $59.6 billion to Medicare Part A providers and $40.4 billion to Part B suppliers, according to the government.

Unlike the $175 billion set aside for providers under the $2 trillion CARES Act, the $100 billion sent to operators through the payment-advance program must be repaid; CMS will begin using subsequent reimbursements to cover the advances after 120 days.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has so far authorized the release of about $50 billion of that CARES Act funding to Medicare providers, though operators that rely on Medicaid and other payment sources must still wait for further distribution waves for stimulus relief.

“The CARES Act Provider Relief Fund is being administered through HHS and has already released $30 billion to providers, and is in the process of releasing an additional $20 billion, with more funding anticipated to be released soon,” CMS noted. “This funding will be used to support health care-related expenses or lost revenue attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure uninsured Americans can get treatment for COVID-19.”

CMS also pointed to an additional injection into the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), an initiative under which small businesses of all types can receive up to $10 million in forgivable loans, as a reason for shutting down the advance-payment program.

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