HHS Expands Its Capability to Audit the Provider Relief Fund
Demonstrating its commitment to audit Provider Relief Fund (PRF) recipients, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has hired several outside contractors to provide audit or program integrity services relating to the PRF. The PRF is a $175 billion fund created by Congress through the CARES Act and administered by HHS (and its sub-agency the Health Resources and Services Administration or HRSA) to provide financial relief to healthcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. HHS has subdivided the PRF into various general and targeted distributions. These distributions were paid to providers in several waves between April 2020 and the present.
Publicly available contracts provide a glimpse into HHS’s actions regarding the PRF. Over the last year, HHS has contracted with KPMG to provide “program integrity support,” Kearney & Company to provide “PRF Audit support services,” and Creative Solutions Consulting to provide “audit and financial review services.” Combined, HHS has committed approximately $5.5 million to these contracts. Reports indicate HHS has hired PricewaterhouseCoopers and Grant Thornton, as well.
Although HHS’s retention of contractors is nothing new, these agreements signal to providers that HHS is not taking PRF reporting lightly. Providers who received and retained payments through the PRF are required to file reports justifying their use of the funds and documenting their compliance with the terms and conditions of the payments. Providers must report information on healthcare-related expenses attributable to coronavirus, lost revenue attributable to coronavirus, other pandemic assistance received, and administrative data. Providers who received more than $500,000 in aggregate payments are required to report some data elements in greater detail, including specific information regarding operations, personnel, supplies, equipment, facilities, and several other categories. Thus, some providers will be required to report significant amounts of financial information in considerable detail.
The first PRF reporting deadline is less than one month away, with the first batch of reports coming due September 30, 2021. This time period includes most of the payments made under the Phase 1 General Distribution, some of the payments made under the Phase 2 General Distribution, and some payments made under the Targeted Distributions. HHS has long signaled its intent to audit recipients of PRF Funds. Providers who have not complied with the requirements of the PRF may be subjected to recoupments or other penalties, including liability under the False Claims Act. As providers file their PRF reports, they should be mindful of the scrutiny with which HHS is likely to review them.
For over 35 years, Wachler & Associates has represented healthcare providers and suppliers nationwide in a variety of health law matters. If you or your healthcare entity has any questions pertaining to the Provider Relief Fund or healthcare compliance, please contact an experienced healthcare attorney at 248-544-0888 or email@example.com.