HHS Loosens Restrictions on COVID Relief Fund Spending

Responding to the concerns of physician and hospital associations and some members of Congress, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has backed off from recent reporting requirements for groups that have received payments from the Provider Relief Fund (PRF), a $175 billion fund established by the CARES Act. However, it’s unclear whether HHS’ new approach will satisfy healthcare providers.

In an October 22 policy statement and guidance that significantly revised the content of guidance released on September 19, HHS explained that it had imposed the reporting requirements to prevent PRF payments from making some providers more profitable in 2020 than they were before the coronavirus pandemic.

HHS’ September guidance “has generated significant attention and opposition from many stakeholders and members of Congress,” the department said. “There is consensus among stakeholders and members of Congress who have reached out to HHS that the PRF should allow a provider to apply PRF payments against all lost revenues without limitation.”

The American Group Medical Association (AMGA) sent HHS a letter on October 21, the day before the policy change, in which it explained what’s at stake. Earlier guidance from the department, AMGA noted, had indicated that the providers could calculate COVID-related lost revenues by using “any reasonable method.” That included basing the calculation on the difference between budgeted and actual revenue in 2020.

The September guidance document, in contrast, said that providers had to calculate their lost revenues by computing the negative change in their net operating income from 2019 to 2020.

“Earlier guidance allowed our members to use ‘any reasonable method’ to determine their expenses and losses due to COVID-19,” the letter said. “Now, HHS is changing that calculation to one that will not capture the extent of their losses. AMGA members are still facing severe financial headwinds as they continue to deal with new COVID outbreaks and a difficult economic outlook. Changing the rules in the middle of this pandemic just adds to our members’ existing burdens. HHS should reinstate the earlier standard.”

The October update of the guidance, however, does not do that. Instead, HHS said, “Recipients may apply PRF payments toward lost revenue, up to the amount of the difference between their 2019 and 2020 actual patient care revenue.”

AMGA spokesman Matt Clark told Medscape Medical News that because AMGA members had not yet been asked for their reaction to the new policy, the association could not comment on it.

The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), which agreed with AMGA’s objections, also had no substantive comment. “This latest update is definitely welcome, but it’s complicated, and we have to analyze it to determine whether it meets our concerns or whether it still needs improvement,” said Mollie Gelburd, associate director of government affairs for MGMA, in an interview with Medscape Medical News.

Getting Down to Nuts and Bolts

Under both sets of reporting requirements, physician practices that received more than $10,000 in PRF payments must report their healthcare-related expenses attributable to the coronavirus that haven’t been reimbursed by

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Pensioner ‘butchered’ by dentist after spending life savings trying to her fix smile

A pensioner who was “butchered” by a Hungarian dentist after spending her life savings on trying to fix her smile has received a five-figure payout.

Jackie Stokes was left in crippling agony as a result of botched dental work in Budapest after she forked out £9,500 for teeth implants.

The 70-year-old had an implant in her upper jaw and crowns on eight teeth after her dentist of 30 years went private and she was unable to afford the fees.

But the procedures went catastrophically wrong, leaving her with blisters, stitches that fell out and shifting implants that left her with an unsightly “bulldog bite.”

Jackie, of Burton-upon-Trents, Staffs, instructed medical negligence lawyers to investigate her case after she was left with “irreversible damage” to her teeth.

She took two trips out to Hungary
She took two trips out to Hungary

The insurance company for two dentists involved in her care in Hungary have now agreed to pay a five-figure settlement, despite initially denying liability.

Jackie said: “I wouldn’t wish what I’ve faced on anyone and would urge people to not just assume everything is as it seems when they arrange such treatment.

“Proper research is vital, as it will ensure you are able to make an informed decision about how to proceed with any treatment.

“No one should have to go through what I have.”

Jakie urged people to do proper research before getting dental treatment
Jakie urged people to do proper research before getting dental treatment

Jackie said she felt “robbed” of her life savings after a dentist advised her to have the work done abroad as it would be cheaper.

She said: “It’s left me feeling as if I have been butchered, physically assaulted and robbed of my life savings.

“It’s been a nightmare. This entire episode is indelibly etched upon my brain. It’s ruined my life.”

Widow Jackie was first advised by a dentist to have implants fitted in 2012 after a dentist told her gum disease had gone undetected for a number of years.

Jackie after her first trip to the central European country
Jackie after her first trip to the central European country

After speaking with a friend who had undergone similar treatment, she was eventually put in touch with a UK-based company which arranged for dental treatment abroad.

Following an assessment, it was determined that she would need five teeth removed, with five implants being fitted and crowns being added to eight others.

She was also informed the treatment would take place in the UK as well as during two trips to Budapest.

However, Jackie went on to suffer a range of issues during the treatment between 2012 and 2015, including severe pain and discomfort.

Jackie in August 2013 after both trips to Hungary for treatment

She became concerned when her front jaw was protruding, leaving a gap between her gums and upper teeth through which food would seep.

She also said implants placed under her nose went into the nasal cavity and left her in agony.

The implants failed and were

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