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In an email exchange with APTA, an HHS representative indicated that virtually any PT who received Medicare fee-for-service reimbursement in 2019 could get the funds, and that businesses closed due to COVID-19 could qualify, too.

It's not formal guidance, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has indicated to APTA that the COVID-19 pandemic relief money now being deposited in providers' bank accounts may be more widely available than you might think after reading the program's terms and conditions. In short: Initial informal word from HHS is that nearly all providers who received Medicare fee-for-service reimbursement in 2019 could qualify for the money, and providers who had to or chose to shut down business before HHS released the payments may also be able to get the funds.

Health care providers across the country began receiving deposits from HHS on April 10 as part of a $30 billion emergency relief package. Funds are being disbursed based on the provider's Medicare billing totals in 2019. More details on the program are available in this PT in Motion News story.

The question that APTA has been pursuing centers on language in the terms and conditions of the program, which state that the money is to go to providers that "currently [provide] care for individuals with possible or actual cases of COVID-19." APTA wanted to know how HHS would interpret "possible or actual cases of COVID-19," and how the department views providers who aren't currently open — either because of mandatory shutdowns or their own professional judgment.

In an email response to APTA, an HHS representative indicated that the department is interpreting those terms broadly, believing that "possible or active cases of COVID-19" applies to virtually any provider who treated patients during the pandemic, given the infection's ability to be carried without symptoms. The representative also told APTA that businesses not currently operating likely would be able to keep any funds they received, given that they likely have lost revenues attributable to the pandemic.

It's potentially good news, but news that should be regarded with caution. This information doesn't change the importance of reading the terms and conditions of the program, says Kara Gainer, APTA's director of regulatory affairs.

"The responses we received from HHS are informal, and we hope to be able to share an official position in the near future," Gainer said. "It's also important to remember that the language we asked about is just one part of the terms and conditions around the money. Anyone receiving these funds should pay careful attention to restrictions around how it's to be used, as well as potential reporting requirements."

APTA staff will continue to monitor this program and share official guidance as it develops.

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