On March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The American Rescue Plan’s $1.9 trillion in spending, contains numerous provisions impacting healthcare, including medical insurance, services delivery and providers.
The American Rescue Plan also provides $5 million to the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) for oversight activities with respect to the public health and social services emergency fund (the Provider Relief Fund). The Provider Relief Fund was created through congressional appropriations now totaling $178 billion to reimburse healthcare providers’ eligible expenses and lost revenues attributable to COVID-19. HHS developed the Provider Relief Fund through multiple rounds of payment distributions, including both General Distributions and Targeted Distributions to specific provider categories.
We anticipate significant government interest in how healthcare providers utilized the funds they received from the Provider Relief Fund and whether the providers who received the funds complied with the terms and conditions of the Provider Relief Fund. At this time, only recipients of payments exceeding $10,000 in the aggregate from the Provider Relief Fund will need to comply with reporting requirements set by HHS, but all recipients may be subject to reporting obligations and auditing in the future.
In late February 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice announced its first Provider Relief Fund-related criminal indictment. With the American Rescue Plan funding, OIG will have the financial support to increase its planned efforts to audit and review Provider Relief Fund spending. Provider Relief Fund recipients should continue to ensure that they are appropriately spending this federal support and prepare for future reporting and external auditor engagements.