HRSA Abruptly Announces Discontinuation of COVID-19 Testing Reimbursement For Uninsured People

Posted on Health Care Law News by Erin Ferber

The HRSA COVID-19 Uninsured Program (UIP) has recently announced it will stop accepting claims for reimbursement due to the program’s lack of sufficient funds. This unexpected announcement has caused significant concern and confusion for businesses operating in this space, as it has historically been one of the primary and most reliable payors.

As background, the UIP was funded by various pieces of COVID-19 related legislation (including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA); the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES); the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA); and the American Rescue Plan of 2021 (ARP). HRSA indicates that approximately $18.8 billion was allocated specifically to providers who provided testing, treatment, and vaccination services to uninsured individuals. Of that $18.8 billion, approximately $17.2 billion was allocated for COVID-19 testing and treatment alone.

The FFCRA (the statute that initially funded HRSA’s UIP) expressly references section 1135(g)(1)(b) of the Social Security Act (SSA), which in turn states in relevant part that an “emergency period” is defined as “a period during which there exists a public health emergency declared by the Secretary pursuant to section 319 of the Public Health Service Act.” That being the case, it arguably seems that the programs (such as the UIP) should last for the total duration of the public health emergency, which is still in effect. This begs the question, how will HRSA be able to meet this requirement if there is a lack of funds available to carry out the program?

As things stand today, the Secretary’s declaration of the public health emergency is currently set to expire on April 16, 2022. It is possible that it will not be extended, or alternatively if it is extended, it will be with limitations. A lack of additional funding has major implications for healthcare facilities that have provided COVID-19 related services to the uninsured population throughout the pandemic. It is unclear at this time if Congress will secure additional funding to allocate to the program.  We anticipate that there will be more information available in the coming weeks as to whether the public health emergency will be extended, and if so, to what extent, as well as whether HRSA will secure additional funding in the event that the legislature decides to act on the matter in response to HRSA’s abrupt termination of its reimbursement for COVID-19 related services to uninsured patients.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding how these recent changes may impact your business, please call Nicholson & Eastin today.