Update Regarding Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund

6 April 2020

One of the key components of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), which was signed into law on March 27, 2020, is the $100 billion “Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund,” which we discussed here. Congress specified that the money in this fund would be distributed by the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) to “eligible health care providers,” defined as entities who provide “diagnoses, testing, or care for individuals with possible or actual cases of COVID-19.” The statute, however, left unclear how the money would be spent. On April 3, 2020, Alex Azar, Secretary of HHS announced that some of the $100 billion would be used to reimburse hospitals who treat uninsured COVID-19 patients. He explained that reimbursement would be provided at the Medicare rate and that hospitals who accept this money are prohibited from balance billing the uninsured patients (i.e., the difference between the Medicare rate and the amount the hospital might otherwise charge). Secretary Azar declined to state whether the federal government would reimburse care provided to undocumented immigrants. He also said that details regarding how the rest of the fund would be distributed will be forthcoming. We will keep you posted when further details become available regarding how HHS plans to spend the rest of the $100 billion fund.