Anyone who receives those funds has to confirm receipt and agree to the terms and conditions.
One important condition: Providers cannot bill any patient at an out-of-network rate. This is in keeping with the administration’s promise that there will be no surprise medical bills for patients who are presumed to have COVID-19 or are treated for the illness.
Physicians and other healthcare clinicians also have to agree to not engage in balance or surprise billing if they seek reimbursement for testing or treatment of uninsured patients.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has set up a new website that will begin accepting applications April 27 for hospitals, physicians, and others seeking payment for a test or treatment for uninsured patients presumed to have COVID-19 or who tested positive for the disease.
Reimbursement — which will be at the Medicare rate — for treatment of uninsured patients is coming from the $100 billion Provider Relief Fund, but Azar would not say how much will be allocated for this purpose.
Doctors and hospitals can seek payment for services dating back to February 4. They must enroll, check patient eligibility and benefits, submit patient information, and submit a claim. They cannot begin submitting claims until early May, and payment will likely start later in May. Once everything is verified, they will be paid via direct deposit.
HRSA Administrator Thomas J. Engels told reporters that, regarding testing, the program will cover specimen collection, diagnostic and antibody testing, and testing-related visits at physician offices, urgent care facilities, emergency departments, or by telehealth. Regarding treatment, the funds will cover office or emergency department visits, inpatient or outpatient visits, observation, telehealth, skilled nursing care, acute rehabilitation, and treatment at long-term care facilities.
Durable medical equipment, such as oxygen and ventilators, and urgent and nonurgent transport will also be covered for uninsured patients.
However, the program only covers US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–approved drugs and only when given during an inpatient stay, said Engels. The FDA has not approved any treatment for COVID-19.
The program will cover a vaccine when and if it becomes available, he said.