Shaheen, Bennet and Stabenow Lead Call to Senate Leadership to Prioritize Improvements to Medicare Payments Program & Provide Financial Relief for Health Care Providers in Future COVID-19 Response Legislation

July 27, 2020

Shaheen’s Push Follows her Legislation to Address Concerns in Medicare Payments Program & Provide Financial Relief for Health Care Providers on Frontlines of Coronavirus Pandemic

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) led a group of Senators last week, including Senator Hassan (D-NH), in a letter to Senate and House leadership, calling for future COVID-19 response legislation to include modifications to repayment obligations and provide an opportunity for loan forgiveness for health care providers who’ve sought financial assistance amid the coronavirus pandemic through Medicare’s Accelerated and Advance Payments Program.

This program was expanded under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to allow for hospitals, physicians and other Medicare-participating providers to apply for upfront payments from Medicare to help cover revenue shortfalls as a result of COVID-19. To date, New Hampshire providers have received $689 million in upfront payments through this program to mitigate the economic shortfall caused by the pandemic. Across the nation, this program has delivered more than $100 billion in upfront payments to health care providers.

The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Gary Peters (D-MI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

The Senators wrote, “As you negotiate a legislative package to address the ongoing health and economic impact of the novel coronavirus or “COVID-19” pandemic, we write to urge you to include critical modifications to the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payments program. This program has provided hospitals, nursing facilities, physician practices and other health care providers across this country with vital financial assistance to help ensure ongoing liquidity during this time when providers’ revenues have steeply declined and COVID-19 response expenses have increased. However, without revisions to the terms and repayment schedule of the program and an option for forgiveness of upfront payments provided by the program, health care providers will face significant financial stress during the months ahead, at a time when we need to ensure continued availability of care and services.”

In their letter, the Senators included a series of modifications to the program that should be addressed to provide financial relief to health care providers on the frontlines, which includes providing health care providers and hospitals an opportunity to seek forgiveness on remaining balances owed under their loan, delaying the recoupment and interest accrual on loans, limiting how much can be recouped from providers at any one time, and reducing the interest rates for loans through the program.

The Senators urged Senate and House leadership to make these changes in future COVID-19 relief legislation a top priority, concluding, “Our health care providers have risen to the challenge on the frontlines of this pandemic. These providers have followed COVID-19 mitigation protocols, including cancellation of elective procedures and visits, at a substantial financial cost to their organizations. Health care providers have also faced new challenges, such as acquiring sufficient personal protective equipment to keep patients and health care staff safe. All of these necessary actions have led to a difficult financial environment for health care providers. Together we must make changes to the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payments program and ensure that the program does not exacerbate these providers’ financial struggles in the midst of this ongoing crisis.”

The letter can be read in full here. 

Senators Shaheen and Bennet recently introduced legislation to address concerns related to the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payments Program. Senator Shaheen previously included this issue in her list of health care priorities in future COVID-19 relief legislation. Senator Shaheen and Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) led a bipartisan letter to the Trump administration in April, urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to waive or modify interest rates for health care providers who’ve sought financial assistance amid the COVID-19 crisis through Medicare’s Accelerated and Advance Payments Program. Heeding their call, the Trump administration later agreed to support efforts that address these interest rates for health care providers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.