Negotiations on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package are continuing at a rapid pace, and the budget reconciliation process used to advance the proposal means the House could take a final vote by the end of February.
Despite the size of Biden’s plan, there’s one glaring hole: No hospital-specific aid to support patient care, workforce sustainability, and health care infrastructure.
On Monday, CHA sent an Alert to all hospitals in California asking that they contact representatives and senators to ensure hospitals are not left out as we recover from recent surges that have been the most intense and widespread to date.
In addition to asking hospitals and systems to elevate the issue individually, CHA’s letter to the California congressional delegation details three urgent priorities:
- Expanding and improving the Provider Relief Fund
- Forgiving from repayment the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program loans
- Extending the delay in sequestration cuts for the duration of the public health emergency
On expanding the Provider Relief Fund, the pandemic has devastated California’s economy, and hospitals are no exception. Hospitals answered the call to respond to COVID-19 and rapidly created additional physical space, purchased protective and clinical equipment, hired more staff, and suspended many non-emergency services. These enormous feats placed an unparalleled strain on hospitals, and without federal aid to offset losses, patients and communities will suffer.
Early and conservative estimates put California hospitals’ losses through the end of 2020 at more than $14 billion (The Financial Impact of COVID-19 on California Hospitals, June 2020). However, the state’s hospitals have received just under $8.6 billion in federal relief.
On repayment forgiveness, as hospitals continue to face an escalation of both public health and economic crises, the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program loans should be forgiven, considering the depth and length of the pandemic.
On delaying sequestration cuts, Congress’ action to preserve much-needed funds for providers has been critical to ensure maximum patient care. The current delay on these 2% annual reductions expires at the end of March but should be extended through the public health emergency.
As with any advocacy effort, the voice of California’s hospitals is strongest when speaking in unison, and every hospital’s individual outreach is valuable and appreciated.