Members of Congress demand answers why a closed hospital was sent federal stimulus money

Coronavirus

JAMESTOWN, Tenn. (WATE) — Members of Congress from Tennessee demand answers about why a closed hospital was sent federal stimulus money during the coronavirus pandemic.

More than $100,000 from the CARES Act was allocated to the Jamestown Regional Medical Center, which has been shuttered for more than a year.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, in a letter, asking three questions:

  • Why was the money given?
  • Has the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General contacted operator Rennova Health?
  • What processes are being put into place at centers for Medicare and Medicaid service to safeguard federal dollars?

On Tuesday, WATE 6 On Your Side learned that HHS is moving to force the hospital’s owner to pay back the money.

Congressman Tim Burchett called the payment “a shame.”

Burchett also sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, calling for an explanation, saying the payment was “clearly a mistake.”

Shuttered Jamestown hospital received $121,000 for COVID-19 relief; HHS to force repayment

An East Tennessee hospital that has been closed for nearly a year received over $100,000 as part of the CARES Act.

Jamestown Regional Medical Center received a $121,000 payment from the Health and Human Services Provider Relief Fund as part of the CARES Act, even though the center has been closed since last summer.

The hospital was given Coronavirus relief money even though it shuttered its doors last June before any COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the United States.

We have reached out to Jamestown’s owner, Rennova Health, to see what will be done with that money. They have yet to respond for comment.

WATE 6 On Your Side did, however, hear back from a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson regarding the issue; basically, HHS “will initiate an action to force repayment without having to go through the audit process.”

Here’s the full statement the HHS spokesperson sent to WATE 6 On Your Side:

At the direction of President Trump, HHS is moving as fast as possible to provide resources and relief to American healthcare providers. Using Medicare FFS payment information as the basis for making these distributions allowed us to make initial payments to providers as quickly as possible without requiring an individualized application process. The funds went to providers across the entire country – to those in areas heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and to those who are struggling to keep their doors open as healthy patients delay care and cancel elective services.

We will continue to review the data and information to ensure accurate and appropriate payment. Once HHS confirms that a provider has closed, we will initiate an action to force repayment without having to go through the audit process. Many of the providers that are not operating have already returned the funds and if an institution is closed and their bank account is also closed, the funds are automatically returned.

For each disbursement, we are using the cost reporting data that is most complete and recent to get funds out in a timely manner. For future funding allocations, HHS is establishing a process to exclude the known closed organizations from our files.

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