While the CARES Act provided much needed funding, it wasn’t a handout for healthcare providers. There are strings attached, explains Stephen Shaver, an attorney with Wachler & Associates and author of the Chapter “Revenue Cycle: CARES Act Relief Funds” in the new HCCA Complete Healthcare Compliance Manual.
There are key restrictions under the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) on how the dollars may be used: only to prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus. Healthcare providers also may not use any PRF payments for an expense that another funding source has already reimbursed or is required to reimburse.
The risks don’t stop there, Stephen explains. Poor documentation and comingling of the funds can cause compliance issues. To mitigate the risk, he recommends having an adequate paper trail and for compliance team to coordinate their activities with accounting and finance to ensure that there are adequate internal controls in place.
Healthcare providers should also take the time to read the terms and conditions. They are rather specific and contain elements that might not be expected, such as on the use of chimpanzees.
Finally, he warns not to shrug off the power of enforcement authorities. There is potential liability under the False Claims Act and the US Government has vowed aggressive response to misuse of the funding. In addition to the Office of Inspector General at Health and Human Services and the US Department of Justice, Congress created a Special Inspector General for Provider Relief.