AHA wants hospitals, health systems to receive emergency funds

The American Hospital Association is asking HHS and CMS to distribute emergency funds directly to rural and urban hospitals and health systems designated for providers in the CARES Act.

The CARES Act, a $2 trillion recovery package approved by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic, allocated $100 billion in a Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to be given to healthcare providers facing revenue losses from COVID-19 patients.

“In addition, all types of hospitals, including rural and urban short-term acute-care, long-term care and critical access hospitals, as well as inpatient rehabilitation and inpatient psychiatric facilities, are incurring expenses related to COVID-19 as they work to treat patients and expand the capacity of the health care system,” read a letter from AHA to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Thus, all types of hospitals must be eligible for funds.”

One recent analysis showed that hospitals are losing revenue on every COVID-19 case, compounded by the fact that they can’t receive revenue from elective surgeries, which have been put on hold during the crisis.

AHA wants every U.S. hospital to receive $25,000 per bed and $30,000 per bed in COVID-19 hot spots. The association estimated these distributions would cost $23 billion without including extra funding for the hot spots, which can be identified through the number of coronavirus deaths, rate of increase in diagnoses or another method.

The CARES Act gives HHS and CMS the authority to make prospective and prepayment distributions from the fund. Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) also have information to calculate per-hospital amounts, and MACs have been used in the past to pay claims and distribute funds directly to healthcare providers beyond regular Medicare payments. AHA said in its letter that using MACs to process applications and make payments directly to individual hospitals or health systems is appropriate during the pandemic.

AHA argued that costs and lost revenue eligible for funds should include:

  • Expenses related to increasing care capacity for COVID-19 patients
  • Expenses related to ensuring an adequate workforce to deal with COVID-19
  • Lost revenue attributable to COVID-19
  • Other healthcare expenses related to coronavirus

“Whether that emergency develops in the form of a natural disaster, like a hurricane or tornado, or as a virus, like COVID-19, hospitals and health systems and the front-line providers who work in them are prepared to fulfill their commitment to their patients,” read the letter, signed by AHA President and CEO Richard Pollack. “While our members continue to do everything they can to address COVID-19 cases, quickly making these funds available would help them continue to put the health and safety of patients and personnel first, and in many cases, may actually ensure they are able to keep their doors open.”