Mississippi healthcare providers seeking relief for expenses incurred for PPE and COVID-19 testing for staff during the COVID-19 pandemic may now submit applications through the Mississippi Development Authority's ("MDA") portal (https://www.mississippi.org/healthcareproviders/) for reimbursement under MDA's Healthcare Providers PPE and Testing Reimbursement Program (the "Program"). As stated in our previous article (https://www.butlersnow.com/2020/07/mississippi-legislature-appropriates-cares-act-funds-for-healthcare-providers/) concerning the Mississippi Legislature's appropriation of CARES Act funds, House Bill 1782 allocated approximately $30.2 million dollars to the MDA for the purpose of providing relief to certain providers for "purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) and providing for COVID-19 testing for staff." Those healthcare providers eligible to apply for reimbursement-which is available for expenses incurred from March 1st to December 31st-include ambulatory surgery centers, assisted living facilities, Alzheimer's/dementia care units, nursing home facilities, independent dentists, independent physicians, independent nurse practitioners, and independent optometrists (the "Eligible Recipients").
Eligible Recipients must execute a "Grant Agreement" with MDA upon creating a login and entering the portal, as well as fill out "Grant Program Reimbursement Requests" for eligible expenses, which include:
- Respirators (N95 or higher);
- Face shields;
- Protective eyewear without gaps between glasses and face;
- COVID-19 testing (viral and anti-body) administered to staff and employees as recommended by CDC guidance titled "Testing for COVID-19" (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/testing.html); and
- COVID-19 screenings of individuals attempting to enter the facilities of the Eligible Recipient to protect the Eligible Recipients and his/her/its staff and employees.
Further details concerning which expenses are reimbursable are set forth in Rule 1.2 of the MDA's published rules for the Program, available at https://www.sos.ms.gov/adminsearch/ACProposed/00025037b.pdf. Providers should be aware that (1) they will not be reimbursed for the above eligible expenses if they have already received funds from any other federal, state, or like program to cover the costs of PPE and COVID-19 testing, and (2) they must state in their Grant Agreement whether they have any ongoing eligible expenses not covered by funds received to date. Additional reimbursement requests are limited to one request every thirty days.
Eligible individual physicians, nurse practitioners, and optometrists are entitled to a maximum total reimbursement of $2,500, whereas independent dentists are entitled to a maximum total reimbursement of $4,000. Independent physicians and dentists who qualify as a "Practice Group," defined by the MDA as "an organization involving two or more independent dentists or independent physicians, who all provide dental or medical care within the same facility, utilize the same personnel, [and] divide the income in a manner previously agreed upon by the group," will be required to enter into one Grant Agreement for all members of the Practice Group. The Grant Agreement will be binding upon each Eligible Recipient who is a member of the Practice Group, with the reimbursement of the Practice Group limited to "the number of Eligible Recipients," and a maximum total reimbursement limit of $25,000 for each medical practice and $40,000 for each dental practice. Thus, Practice Groups' maximum reimbursement limitations will be calculated by multiplying the number of Eligible Recipients in the Practice Group with the Eligible Practitioners' individual maximum totals, unless the number of Eligible Recipients in a Practice Group exceeds ten, in which case the maximum limitation for the Practice Group will be reached.
Eligible Recipients should be thorough in their documentation and cognizant of the declarations made in their submissions to the Program. Providers are required to provide supporting documentation for each eligible expense (e.g., invoices, purchases orders, receipts, bills, charges, financial statements, etc.), and must further certify, under penalty of perjury, that all responses and statements in their submissions are true and not false, fraudulent, or materially misleading. In the instance of a request being found to be fully or partially noncompliant with Program requirements, Eligible Recipients may be required to return all or a portion of the monies received from the Program and may be subject to civil and criminal penalties. An appeals process for any award or disqualification under the Program is set forth at Rule 1.10 of the MDA's regulations, which requires providers to appeal within twenty days of the date of an MDA decision. All appeal determinations made by the MDA will be final with no further administrative or judicial review.
The MDA's Program should provide much-needed relief for those eligible Mississippi healthcare providers who have not been otherwise reimbursed for certain costs incurred to ensure the safety of themselves and their workforce. Butler Snow attorneys are readily available to assist Mississippi healthcare providers in this process.
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