Hospitals need additional financial support to financially survive while treating patients with COVID-19, the American Hospital Association and the American Nurses Association told House and Senate leaders in a letter released today.
The AHA and ANA are asking Congress to provide additional funding to the original $100 billion the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act invested into the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to cover provider expenses related to COVID-19. The funds went to increased expenses for personal protective equipment, increased surge capacity, additional healthcare providers and lost revenue.
WHY THIS MATTERS
More money is needed, especially since all hospitals received $50 billion and not the full $100 billion of the original CARES Act funding. The remaining $50 billion went to targeted funding to target COVID-19 hot spots, rural hospitals, Indian Health Service facilities, and, in a sticking point with the AHA and ANA, to help cover the cost of treating the uninsured.
Another $75 billion for hospitals was passed last week through the Payment Protection Program.
While the AHA and ANA support separate funding and initiatives to cover the uninsured, CARES Act funding was not intended or funded at an appropriate enough level to cover the uninsured, the groups said.
Congress needs to address the issue of the uninsured and those who may lose their health insurance through no fault of their own because of the economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AHA and ANA said.
WHERE THE MONEY SHOULD GO
The provider groups ask Congress to establish a separate fund to cover the costs of child and dependent care for essential healthcare employees; to supply housing and transportation vouchers; for free regular testing of COVID-19 and to ensure frontline nurses, physicians and other personnel are prioritized for testing of the virus and for antibody testing; and for commensurate pay for all healthcare providers providing care in hospitals and those directly supporting them and patients, such as first responders, technicians, food-handling employees and cleaning staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fund should also cover survivor benefits for frontline nurses and physicians; for education vouchers and student loan repayment; and for liability protections for facilities and frontline healthcare providers.
For hospitals, Congress should: provide loan forgiveness for accelerated payments; allow investor-owned hospitals to participate in Federal Emergency Management Agency funding programs without state contracts; lift the cap on graduate medical education slots; repeal the Institutions for Mental Diseases exclusion until one year after the pandemic; and increase outlier payments and extend the eligibility of the diagnosis-related group add-on to long-term care hospitals.
Rural communities need increased flexibilities for e-prescribing and telehealth and should get increased funding for broadband access. Critical access hospitals need to be able to cost-settle after the COVID-19 pandemic, the letter said.
THE LARGER TREND
The AHA and the ANA were among a coalition of healthcare groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which on April 28 asked Congress to prioritize maintaining private insurance and increasing coverage options as numerous employees lost their healthcare benefits due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the May 1 letter, the AHA again asks Congress to: preserve and build upon private sector coverage by covering the cost of COBRA; increasing eligibility to federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act; allowing special enrollment in the health insurance marketplaces; and prohibiting finalization of the Medicaid fiscal accountability rule.
ON THE RECORD
"While we greatly appreciate the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Payment Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act and the valuable resources they provided, additional support is urgently needed to ensure that care can continue to be given. In order to make certain that physicians, nurses and hospitals are able to continue to provide treatments, front-line healthcare personnel are able to provide care and patients are able access healthcare services, Congress must act quickly to get needed resources into the healthcare system," said Richard J. Pollack, president and CEO of the AHA and Debbie Hatmaker, acting Chief Executive Officer of the ANA.
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