The COVID-19 pandemic has resurrected many well-worn aphorisms: “New normal,” “Unlike anything we’ve seen before,” “Once-in-a-lifetime crisis.”
These phrases can help us make sense of circumstances and events that have been challenging to cope with and even more difficult to recover from. Of course, they do little to help where it’s needed most.
Hospitals’ toll has been heavy — preparing for a massive surge of potential patients by suspending surgeries and other procedures, while at the same time investing in new space, protective equipment, and medical supplies has gutted the resources you rely on to provide care in your communities.
While the path to long-term recovery may be murky, we know it starts with financial support that will at least begin to provide some stability as hospitals — and California’s entire health care system — reset what they know about how health care is regulated, provided, and paid for.
Right now, with federal dollars barely trickling to California, any sense of stability is far off. California hospitals have received $3 billion from federal aid packages — which focused on Medicare providers, hot spots, and rural hospitals. This all acted to disadvantage California compared to other states as we have a smaller share of Medicare patients, flattened the curve to avoid COVID-19 spread, and have far fewer rural areas than other states. This is well short of the nearly $14 billion in short-term losses California hospitals have seen and represents a mere 4% of the allocations to hospitals thus far (even though California is home to 12% of the U.S. population).
That’s why we’re asking for an immediate budget allocation of $1 billion from this year’s general fund — a financial lifeline for hospitals that have borne the burden of the ongoing COVID-19 response. In addition, we’re pressing for $3 billion in next year’s budget, which, if federal approvals for matching funds are granted, could yield $6 billion for hospitals.
We’ve asked for you to write letters. We’ve spoken directly with the highest levels of government. And we’ve been working to share your story via traditional media, social media, and a new website, www.protectourhospitals.org. Now, we need your voices, in every way possible, to carry this message even more personally to your state representatives.
They need to hear from you now — via text, via tweet, via Zoom, via a good old-fashioned phone call — about the difficult decisions before you as you work to continue to provide emergency care, remain ready for another wave of COVID-19, restart many needed and delayed services in your community, and protect the jobs of California’s health care heroes.
We know that the $3 trillion HEROES Act faces an uphill battle in the Senate. So, as federal legislators need to continue to hear from you, state support is absolutely critical at this time, and time is growing short to make a difference.
Hospitals have been and continue to be at the forefront of the COVID-19 response, and they are foundational to restarting California’s economy. As legislators consider how to support the many sectors of our state that are hurting right now, hospitals, because of the vital health safety net they provide, must come first.
Thank you for elevating your voice now, so hospitals get the support they need.