Hospitals urge HHS to cut interest rate on advance payments

The American Hospital Association and several other national hospital groups sent a letter to HHS urging the agency to make improvements to the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program. 

CMS expanded the payment program to a broader group of healthcare providers in late March to help offset the financial impact of COVID-19. Most hospitals can request up to six months of advance Medicare payments through the program. 

The payments, which are loans that hospitals must pay back, have an interest rate of more than 9.6 percent. The hospital groups are urging HHS to waive the interest or lower the interest rate to no more than 2 percent. 

The hospital groups also asked HHS to increase the amount that can be advanced to hospitals to 12 months of Medicare payments and to extend the period before repayment begins. 

"Hospitals and health systems across the country are struggling financially under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, and will continue to struggle beyond this initial response period," the hospital groups wrote in an April 23 letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma. "The changes we have suggested will have a material impact on the ability of our facilities to respond to COVID-19, plan for the future and continue to provide vital care to our patients and our communities."

In addition to the AHA, the letter was signed by America's Essential Hospitals, the Association of American Medical Colleges, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Federation of American Hospitals, National Association for Behavioral Healthcare, Premier healthcare alliance, and Vizient. 

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