Congress should increase emergency funding for hospitals on the front lines of the COVID-19 epidemic, target hospitals in greatest need, adjust Medicaid to help essential hospitals, and provide other financial and regulatory relief, America’s Essential Hospitals said in an April 13 letter to congressional leaders.
The letter to bipartisan Senate and House leaders outlines key priorities for essential hospitals and comes as Congress considers the next round of emergency funding across various economic sectors, including health care. In the letter, the association applauds the initial aid provided through the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and recommends these steps toward additional federal assistance:
- Increase the amount of emergency funding available and target funds toward hospitals with the greatest need for support. The letter urges Congress to provide additional funding to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund and ensure these dollars are targeted in a way that prioritizes hospitals, through a weighting process or other means, that serve a disproportionate share of Medicaid and low-income patient populations and vulnerable communities.
- Adjust Medicaid policies to assist essential hospitals, including blocking the proposed Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Regulation, temporarily increasing Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) state allotments by at least 3 percent, and creating temporary emergency section 1115 waivers to increase upper payment limits and hospital-specific Medicaid DSH limits.
- Protect the 340B Drug Pricing Program by allowing covered entities to maintain 340B eligibility notwithstanding changes in payer mix during the pandemic and ensuring access to 340B-discounted drugs for patients treated via telehealth.
- Enhance and expand existing Medicare relief by forgiving Medicare advance payments to hospitals for payroll and the purchase of personal protective equipment and reducing the interest rate on repayment of funds. The letter also seeks additional telehealth flexibilities and assurances that any temporary increase in beds for treating COVID-19 patients do not affect a hospital’s indirect medical education payments.
- Fix eligibility issues for public hospitals that are ineligible for the payroll tax credit offered to help offset the costs of providing paid family and sick leave to employees.
- Require the Department of Health and Human services to collect and analyze demographic data to better understand and ameliorate the racial and ethnic disparities evident in COVID-19 health outcomes.
- Provide hazard pay to recognize the selfless and courageous work of caregivers at essential hospitals and emergency personnel who are the front lines of treating and caring for COVID-19 patients.
America’s Essential Hospitals will continue to advocate for the necessary resources and policy changes to respond to this crisis. Questions may be directed to Carlos Jackson, vice president of legislative affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.