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Doctors and hospitals are asking for $100 billion in next COVID-19 relief bill

Industry groups said the funds are necessary to ensure that hospitals can continue to effectively respond to the pandemic.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Doctors, nurses and hospitals are imploring Congress to provide an additional $100 billion in relief to front-line healthcare workers to offset staffing and equipment expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic -- problems that have only been exacerbated by the loss of revenue caused by cancelled elective procedures and outpatient services.

In a letter to Senate leaders last week, American Medical Association Executive Vice President and CEO Dr. James L. Madara said that coronavirus spikes in multiple states will likely add even more stress to an already taxed healthcare system.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT

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The AMA, along with American Nurses Association and American Hospital Association, said the additional $100 billion is necessary to ensure that nurses, doctors, hospitals and health systems can continue to effectively respond to the pandemic.

To drive the point home, the groups noted that hospitals in hot spot locations that had resumed non-essential surgeries have once more halted them to ensure there's enough capacity for COVID    -19 patients. That has added significant financial strain for these providers.

"For outpatient providers, there continues to be decreased demand for services, and those offices and facilities that are open are scheduling fewer patients due to social distancing precautions while incurring higher expenses for scarce personal protective equipment and other supplies," the letter states. "This is causing severe financial stress on physicians, nurses, hospitals and health systems."

In addition to staffing and equipment expenses, hospitals are dealing with costs related to construction and the retrofitting of existing facilities, as well as establishing emergency operations centers and in some cases even providing housing for homeless patients who do not require hospitalization.

In another, separate letter sent to Senate leaders earlier this month, the three healthcare organizations urged Congress to include provisions to strengthen the federal response to the disproportionate effects felt by racial and ethnic minority and marginalized communities. 

"Data from the COVID Data Tracking Project at The Atlantic indicates that Black people are dying at a rate nearly two times higher (24%) than their share of the population (13%), and that in 42 states, LatinX people make up a greater share of confirmed cases than their share of the population," the letter said. "Similar inequities are beginning to emerge in state-reported data for Native Americans and Asian Americans."

The groups called for improved data collection and testing, and addressing workforce needs and the social determinants of health. 

THE LARGER TREND

At a press conference last week, the American Hospital Association called for more Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding for the nation's hospitals, citing a projected $323 billion in losses industry-wide due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Pulling from statistics compiled by Kaufman Hall, AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack said that due to factors such as staffing inadequacies, the cancellation of elective surgeries and shortages of personal protective equipment, U.S. hospitals are anticipating about $120 billion in losses from July to December alone.

Pollack added that the projections are likely conservative given the coronavirus surge that many areas of the country have been experiencing. Half of all hospitals may be operating in the red by the end of the year, he said.
 

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com