CMS outlines new repayment terms for Medicare advances sent to radiologists during economic downturn

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Thursday announced new repayment terms for cash advances offered to radiologists and other physicians during the pandemic.

CMS is now giving docs and suppliers one year from the original issuance of funds to repay Accelerated and Advance Payment Program loans, rather than the original 120 days. Groups such as the American Medical Association have lobbied the federal agency to relax its strict repayment terms, calling impending due dates an “economic sword hanging over physician practices.” Congress responded, with President Donald Trump signing the final legislation last week, propelling the agency’s action.

“In the throes of an unprecedented pandemic, providers and suppliers on the frontlines needed a lifeline to help keep them afloat,” Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement.  “CMS’ advanced payments were loans given to providers and suppliers to avoid having to close their doors and potentially causing a disruption in service for seniors.  While we are seeing patients return to hospitals and doctors providing care, we are not yet back to normal.”

All told, the feds have doled out $106 billion in payments to help smooth over cash flow issues as routine cancer screenings, imaging-guided procedures and other patient volume dried up in the spring. Dollars went to more than 22,000 Part A providers, totaling $98 billion in accelerated payments. Another 28,000 Part B suppliers—including doctors, nonphysician practitioners and durable medical equipment suppliers—received advanced payments of more than $8.5 billion, CMS detailed.

Payments started coming due in August, prior to legislators’ action. Following the first year after issuance, Medicare will begin automatically recouping 25% from Medicare payments it otherwise owed to providers for the next 11 months. After that, collections will double to 50% for half a year. And finally, if a doctor still has a balance at 29 months, CMS will require full repayment, subject to a 4% interest rate.

You can read further details in this Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services fact sheet.