Healthcare providers that received COVID-19 relief grants can use the funds to pay for supplies needed for vaccine distribution, HHS said.
The agency in recent weeks has issued guidance on what expenses and lost revenues healthcare providers can legally count toward the COVID-19 Provider Relief Fund grants they received beginning in April. Congress set aside $175 billion for provider grants, and HHS as continually updated guidance since the funds were issued.
The agency made several clarifications this week, including that the grants must be used by June 30. The funds can be used to pay for refrigerators, personnel costs, and transportation costs not otherwise reimbursed for vaccine distribution. The funds can be used before a vaccine is available. Refrigerators are needed to keep vaccines viable and some providers and pharmacy chains, which are increasingly a vaccination site, might not have the space for large quantities.
HHS on Oct. 22 announced it reversed course on requirements on healthcare providers receiving COVID-19 relief grants that prohibited them from using grant funds to become more profitable than they were pre-pandemic. In the latest update on Wednesday, the agency reiterated that providers cannot compare actual revenue with budgeted revenue to determine lost revenue as the agency had implied over the summer, they must use actual revenue figures from 2019.
If a regular office visit costs more during the pandemic than it did before, the provider can count the marginal cost as a coronavirus-related expense, HHS said.
In the most recent update, HHS also changed prior guidance to clarify that subsidiaries can transfer funds from the first round of funding, which was based on net patient revenue, back to the parent entity. HHS said it made the change based on feedback from providers who were unsure about how the money could be used when they accepted the grants.