Docs Get Some Catch-Up Time to Report Aid Payments During COVID; Is It Enough Time?

Kerry Dooley Young

April 07, 2022

Federal officials will allow some clinicians the chance to catch up on a missed reporting deadline for aid payments provided during the pandemic, following requests for such clemency from physician groups.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) on Wednesday said certain clinicians will be able to submit requests between April 11 and April 22 to make up for missed filings. At issue are missing filings for what's called Reporting Period 1 that could trigger demands for repayment of funds.

HRSA has posted on its website information about making up missing filings. The agency outlined circumstances that may qualify an organization for filing a late make-up report, including:

  • Severe illness or death: a severe medical condition or death of a clinician or key staff member responsible for reporting hindered the organization's ability to complete the report during the Reporting Period.

  • Natural disaster: a natural disaster occurred during or in close proximity to the end of the reporting period damaging the medical organization's records or information technology.

  • Lack of receipt of reporting communications: an incorrect email or mailing address on file with HRSA prevented the organization from receiving instructions prior to the reporting-period deadline.

  • Failure to click "Submit" : the organization registered and prepared a report in the PRF Reporting Portal, but failed to take the final step to click "Submit" prior to deadline.

  • Internal miscommunication or error: internal miscommunication or error regarding the person who was authorized and expected to submit the report on behalf of the organization and/or the registered point of contact in the PRF Reporting Portal.

HRSA, a little-known agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), manages the reporting requirements that were attached to federal aid extended to clinicians during the pandemic.

In a statement sent to Medscape on Wednesday, Gerald E. Harmon, MD, president of the American Medical Association (AMA), expressed gratitude for the accommodation, but asked for more time for clinicians to address the missed deadline.

"The AMA appreciates HRSA reopening the reporting portal, but 2 weeks is an alarmingly short time frame. Additionally, what extra steps will HRSA take to reach the physicians who need to report?" Harmon said. "We remain concerned that the physicians most impacted will be those in small practices who serve the underserved and rural communities."

On March 31, AMA had led a letter to HRSA requesting a reopening of the required reporting period for at least 60 days. This was meant to aid practices that missed a November 30 reporting deadline connected to the federal Provider Relief Fund.

In the letter, AMA and other physician groups detailed some of the reasons why practices had missed the reporting deadline. These include staff turnover that resulted in the loss of the person who had served as the contact for the federal relief funds, cases of COVID among the staff of practices that have disrupted operations, and practices being unaware of the reporting requirements.

"Small and rural physician practices appear to be particularly impacted by the reporting deadline and the potential recoupment of funds," said AMA and the other groups in the March 31 letter. "These practices, often under-resourced even while they provide critical health care services, cannot afford to have the funds they received recouped."

Groups signing the letter were:

  • AMDA-The Society for PALTC Medicine

  • American Academy of Dermatology Association

  • American Academy of Family Physicians

  • American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery

  • American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

  • American Association of Neurological Surgeons

  • American College of Cardiology

  • American College of Emergency Physicians

  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

  • American College of Osteopathic Internists

  • American College of Physicians

  • American College of Rheumatology

  • American College of Surgeons

  • American Psychiatric Association

  • American Society for Clinical Pathology

  • American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

  • American Society for Radiation Oncology

  • American Society of Anesthesiologists

  • American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery

  • American Society of Retina Specialists

  • American Urological Association

  • Association for Clinical Oncology, a 501(c)(6) organization established by the American Society of Clinical Oncology

  • College of American Pathologists

  • Congress of Neurological Surgeons

  • Endocrine Society, Heart Rhythm Society

  • Renal Physicians Association

  • Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions

  • Society of Interventional Radiology

  • Spine Intervention Society

Another signer was the ​​Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). In a statement provided to Medscape on Wednesday, Claire Ernst, JD, director of government affairs for MGMA, said her organization is "encouraged" by HRSA's willingness to provide an opportunity for addressing the missed deadline.

"It is our hope that HRSA will not be too narrow in scope when working to approve these requests. Given the complications in reaching recipients ahead of the original deadline, we would encourage HRSA to disseminate any and all information regarding 'Requests to Report Late Due to Extenuating Circumstances' as quickly and efficiently as possible via multiple platforms to ensure all recipients are aware of these changes," Ernst said.

In an email exchange, HRSA told Medscape that more than 98% of the funds clinicians were required to report on in Reporting Period 1 had been accounted for by the deadline.

HRSA also said it had tried to alert clinicians about the reporting requirement. Between June 2021 and March 2022, HRSA distributed more than 20 communications, which included information about the Reporting Period 1 requirements and deadline.

"Communications were in varied formats (eg, email and paper letters) and the distribution lists were to all providers who needed to report and stakeholders that represent them," an HRSA spokesperson wrote in an email.

HRSA added that the current postpayment notice of reporting requirements was released on June 11, 2021 and expanded the amount of time clinicians had to report from 30 to 90 days. Clinicians had had from July 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021 to report on the use of funds in the original Reporting Period 1, and HRSA extended that deadline with an additional 2-month grace period that ended on November 30, 2021.

Kerry Dooley Young is a freelance journalist based in Miami Beach, Florida. She is the core topic leader on patient safety issues for the Association of Health Care Journalists. Young earlier covered health policy and the federal budget for Congressional Quarterly/CQ Roll Call and the pharmaceutical industry and the Food and Drug Administration for Bloomberg. Follow her on Twitter at @kdooleyyoung.

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