Provider Relief Fund: 3 healthcare practices share their stories

If there ever was a time when having a trusted business advisor to turn to for guidance and assistance was an absolute must, the past couple of years would be it. This became clear to Alice, an administrator for a Michigan healthcare practice, from the moment the pandemic hit and changed everything.

“We were so stretched in the office in terms of rescheduling patients, taking the necessary precautions, implementing new procedures, protecting staff and protecting patients, and at times closing the office – all of that was taking priority,” she said. “There was just so much to take care of.”

Thankfully, she said, the practice had a strong partnership with Rehmann and received much-needed guidance on keeping things moving forward during immense uncertainty.

“Our advisor and his team were able to give us support on the business side. We were being stretched on the care side, and we knew we could count on them to help us through the other parts,” she said. “They provided good, calm, reassuring advice.”

One critical way Rehmann assisted the practice: helping secure a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan as well as $26,000 through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Provider Relief Fund.

“The team was extremely helpful with the PPP loan, the PPP forgiveness, and HHS application,” she said. “It was something I could have never done by myself – it would have been overwhelming.”

Provider Relief Funds “basically kept us liquid,” said Ed Schofield, a retired practice manager with Emergency Physicians of Northwest Ohio who worked with his Rehmann team to secure the funding.

“We’re an ER group, so if your census goes down, so does your revenue. At the lowest point, we were seeing 50% of the patients we normally would. Having the funding, it was crucial,” Schofield said. “From the lowest point, it was three months later when we started creeping back up, and we didn’t get back to that capacity for a year. We were really hurting, as was virtually anyone who is in this kind of volume-based business.”

A lifeline for healthcare providers

For healthcare practices across the country, the pandemic posed unprecedented challenges – COVID-related financial struggles that have been eased with the help of funding from the HHS, which made billions of dollars available in four phases of Provider Relief Fund payments.

Provider Relief Fund payments have been critical in helping health care providers prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus. Providers have used the funds to remain in operation and to continue supporting patient care by covering a variety of costs including personnel, recruitment and retention initiatives, medical supplies, information technology, and many other functions.

Most recently, in January 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), made more than $2 billion in Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Phase 4 General Distribution payments to more than 7,600 providers across the country. These payments came on the heels of the nearly $9 billion in funding that was already released by HHS in December 2021. With the most recent distribution, a total of nearly $11 billion in PRF Phase 4 payments have now been distributed to more than 74,000 providers in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and five territories. This is in addition to HRSA’s distribution of American Rescue Plan (ARP) Rural payments totaling nearly $7.5 billion in funding to more than 43,000 providers in December 2021.

'Efficient and thorough'

Provider Relief Funding – and other financial assistance that’s been provided through legislation passed throughout the pandemic – has indeed positively impacted healthcare practices. Such financial assistance also involves significant paperwork, careful consideration, and diligent follow-through, which is where a trusted team of business advisors comes into play.

For Alpine Eye Care, a Grayling, Mich. practice, knowing their Rehmann team was on top of helping secure necessary funding made a significant impact during financially difficult times earlier in the pandemic. This included the more than three-month-long period in 2020 when the practice was unable to schedule surgeries because of government restrictions in response to COVID. Receiving PPP funds “blunted the loss of not being able to do surgeries,” said Dr. Jeff Chaulk.

“It certainly was appreciated to have Rehmann’s help,” Dr. Chaulk said, adding that even after surgeries could be scheduled, returning to more normal patient numbers was slower going given the older ages of some of their surgery patients and their level of comfort returning to in-person interactions.

With the help of additional government funding, however, the practice rebounded in 2021 and Dr. Chaulk said he’s feeling positive about 2022. The practice, which consists of two eye surgeons and three optometrists, received $137,000 in assistance through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Provider Relief Fund.

“Rehmann was very instrumental in helping us get the numbers and the application procedures in place for both the PPP – funding for both phase one and phase two of PPP in 2020 and 2021 – and also with the HHS funding,” he said. “They really helped me, and my business manager, navigate through the application process to make it as seamless as possible. They were efficient and thorough.”

Empowered to do more

As the pandemic continues and the practice keeps adapting to ongoing changes, the relationship with Rehmann remains as important as ever, said Alice, the Michigan healthcare administrator. She knows she can always count on detailed information, analysis, and advice from her advisor team, which allows the practice to do what it does best: care for patients.

“Any questions we have, they’re always taken care of so promptly. It’s a very good working relationship. We’re very happy,” she said.

Ed Schofield, of Emergency Physicians of Northwest Ohio, echoed those thoughts.

“The thing that is most valuable to us is we know when we pick up the phone and call, we’re going to get a rapid response,” he said of reaching out to Rehmann. “If I send a note to anyone on the team, we get a response right away – the same day. It’s that turnaround time, the responsiveness and tailored-ness to our direct needs, that’s so important.”

For Alpine Eye Care, knowing the practice’s trusted advisors were available at any time to assist made all the difference during the past couple of years – and this continues to be the case. This partnership has provided him with peace of mind since 1990, when Alpine Eye Care began working with the Rehmann team, Dr. Chaulk said. This proved especially important these past two years during the pandemic, when meeting deadlines and completing paperwork such as applications and attestations were high priorities.

“Everyone at Rehmann, they all do a great job,” he said. “It would be daunting to try to run a practice, take care of our patients, and have to handle all of this ourselves. [During COVID] it was entirely different – we had never had to do these things before – and that’s where Rehmann’s knowledge and expertise made it much, much easier for our practice and our staff.”

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