Vermont overpaid 17 health care providers by a total of $7 million in federal COVID-19 relief money through a state grant program

The state of Vermont overpaid 17 health care providers by a total of $7 million in federal COVID-19 relief money through a state grant program set up to offset pandemic-related revenue losses in the industry, according to a report from the Vermont state auditor.

The auditor’s office reviewed $92 million of the total of $143 million paid during the first three rounds of the Health Care Stabilization Grant Program that was administered by the Vermont Agency of Human Services. The report released Monday found that that more than half of the 39 awards should not have been made or were too high.

“The first year of the pandemic greatly disrupted Vermont’s health care system, and the Agency of Human Services acted quickly to deploy federal COVID money to allow health facilities to pay their bills. By moving so quickly, though, the application review process was not comprehensive,” said state Auditor Doug Hoffer in a written statement.

“Every dollar that was improperly awarded was not available for other urgent needs like meals programs or housing assistance,” Hoffer said.

Samuelson said that even before the auditor’s report, her agency had been reviewing the payments to health care providers and in each case where they have been reviewed, the providers were able to justify the costs and there is no evidence of any fraudulent behavior.