Federal programs to help radiology practices during the pandemic

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Rebecca Farrington.

Over time, we have been tracking changes to these programs, new programs that have become available, and time frames for action. Let’s review the latest federal legislation and the current position of each of last year’s relief programs, especially the Medicare Payment Sequester, which is a developing story.

Medicare payment escrow

The 2% escrow of funds from Medicare payments was suspended from May 1 to December 31, 2020. The suspension was then extended to March 31, 2021.

Many healthcare advocacy organizations have urged Congress to further extend the moratorium until the end of the year, and legislation to that effect has been passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Once it is finally ratified and signed, the 2% escrow will not be reinstated until 2022.

With Congress suspended until mid-April, we won’t know the final answer until it meets again. However, since escrow would apply to claims with service dates as of April 1 and such claims would not be paid for at least 14 days after they are received by Medicare, there should be no late payments. while awaiting the final result in Congress. .

US bailout law

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was signed on March 11 and includes benefits for employers and their employees facing economic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It extends the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) until the end of 2021 and changes the rules so that a practice can claim the ERC even if it has received a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) , provided the same wages are not used for PPP loan forgiveness amount.

The ERC is now available for employers with fewer than 500 employees who experienced a reduction of at least 20% of their gross receipts in 2021 compared to the same quarter in 2019. available against Social Security and Social Security taxes. ‘health insurance) which is refundable if it exceeds the amount of tax otherwise due. The credit is 70% of the eligible salary up to a maximum of $ 10,000 per employee per quarter, or $ 7,000 in credit per employee per quarter. This equates to $ 28,000 in credit per employee in 2021.

ARPA is also extending the “Paid Sick Leave and Family Leave Credit” that was introduced by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) until September 30, 2021. This program has been made optional for employers for 2021. .

As of April 1, 2021, paid sick leave is reset so that an employee who previously used up their FFCRA sick leave has an additional 10 days (80 hours). Acceptable reasons for using this leave now include time to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, to recover from any vaccine-related illness or condition, or to research or wait for the results of a diagnosis or test. COVID-19.

Telemedecine

One of the first changes in early March 2020 was the relaxation of the rules for the use of telemedicine. While there is talk of making some of the changes permanent, the temporary emergency rules will expire at the end of March 2020. the public statement. Health emergency (PHE).

The PHE is a continuous 90-day statement that was renewed from January 21, 2021 to April 20, 2021, and there is no way of knowing at this point when the cycle of PHE renewals will end although there is indications that it will continue. until the end of 2021.

Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program

As we discussed in a recent article, the repayment of advances under Medicare’s Advance and Accelerated Payment Program (MAAP) will begin for many practices around April 1 or, more specifically, 365 days after the office receives the advance.

Relief Fund grants to providers

In early April 2020, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) deposited funds directly into the bank accounts of healthcare providers based on a formula linked to the firm’s Medicare reimbursement in 2019. Although the basic statement was made that the funds would not have to be repaid, there were conditions attached and the firms had the option of returning the funds if they could not meet those conditions. Another round of grants became available in October 2020, which required an application and a demonstration of the financial loss due to the pandemic.

Accountability to HHS for the use of grant funds has evolved. Different levels of reporting and documentation will be required depending on the amount received. A reporting portal was opened on January 15, 2021 for registration by firms that have received grants.

There is no registration deadline and no timeline is available for reports. Practices that register with the portal will receive an email notification regarding their reporting requirements. Otherwise, the best source of information for report updates is through the HHS website.

Small Business Administration Loans

The Paycheque Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) have provided financing to businesses facing ongoing costs with sharply reduced revenues. Both programs allow part or all of the loan to be canceled, converting it into a tax-free grant. The outstanding loan balances have favorable repayment terms at low interest rates.

At this point, companies have had the opportunity to file requests for two rounds of PPP funds, and in many cases at least the first round of pardon requests have been filed and approved. Some banks have delayed processing forgiveness requests, using staff to process graduate PPP loan requests.

The PPP loan application opportunity was scheduled to expire on March 31, but will be extended until May 31, 2021 pending the president’s signature on legislation passed last month. Businesses have up to 10 months from receipt of funds to file a pardon request.

As there are unanswered questions, we will continue to monitor and report on all of these programs and any new benefits announced.

Rebecca Farrington is the Director of Recipes for Administrative partners in health. She has over 20 years of experience in healthcare sales and management roles, focusing on managing the revenue cycle of hospitals and physicians.

The comments and observations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of AuntMinnie.com.

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