Congressional leaders ask HHS to clarify plan for distributing additional relief funds

June 4, 2020

Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Finance committees asked Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to clarify by June 10 the agency’s plan and timeline for disbursing COVID-19 emergency relief funds to Medicaid-dependent providers. 

“As the chairs and ranking members of the committees of jurisdiction over the Medicaid program, we are concerned that the delay in disbursing funds from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund for Medicaid-dependent providers could result in long term financial hardship for providers who serve some of our most vulnerable populations,” wrote Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., and Ranking Member Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Senate Finance Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore. “It could also severely hamper their ability to continue to serve as essential providers amid the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.” 

In the effort to help hospitals fight COVID-19, furloughs and decreased patient numbers, the president of the American Hospital Association (AHA) wrote, “On behalf of our nearly 5,000 member hospitals, health systems and other health care organizations, our clinician partners – including more than 270,000 affiliated physicians, 2 million nurses and other caregivers – and the 43,000 healthcare leaders who belong to our professional membership groups, the American Hospital Association (AHA) appreciates the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) release of emergency funds to hospitals and health systems. This funding is an important step toward giving our hospitals support and resources in the fight against COVID-19. However, as the virus continues to spread, hospitalizations continue to occur, and Americans continue to forgo care, including primary care and other specialty care visits – more funds are urgently needed. Therefore, we ask the Department to distribute substantial additional funds to hospitals and health systems in an expedited manner and using a phased approach.” 

“America’s hospitals and health systems have stepped up in heroic and unprecedented ways to meet the challenges of COVID-19. Yet, they are facing historic financial pressures. Many non-emergency procedures remain cancelled under state and local orders, and Americans are postponing care to stop the spread of the virus. Treatment for COVID-19 has created incredible demand for certain medical equipment and supplies, increasing costs. Indeed, the AHA estimates a total four-month financial impact of $202.6 billion in losses for hospitals and health systems, an average of $50.7 billion per month. Although the federal government has provided relief, more is needed, especially given the reality that many hospitals were already facing financial pressures. As such, we urge HHS to distribute additional funds to all hospitals, as well as to “hot spot” hospitals and hospitals serving high numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients. At the same time, it should work to create a process by which to then reimburse eligible hospitals and health systems for health care-related expenses or lost revenues attributable to COVID-19 through a direct application process.” 

AHA has urged HHS to quickly distribute additional emergency funds to all hospitals, including hospitals serving high numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients, among other recommendations. 

AHA has the release.  

More COVID-19 coverage HERE.