Last week, over 120 lawmakers called on Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to provide immediate assistance to rural hospitals and clinics laid out in the CARES Act. Central Washington’s Dan Newhouse was one of the lawmakers calling on HHS to move faster to help rural facilities as they battle the problem of coronavirus. Newhouse said the funding set aside by the CARES Act will help small town hospitals in a variety of ways.
“Increasing the reimbursement rate from Medicaid payments and also beefing up the telemedicine process so that rural community residents can take fuller advantage of that technology which has seen a tremendous amount of increased use in the last few weeks, so we need to make sure that happens as well.”
Last week’s letter states rural hospitals across the country say they have only days left of cash-on-hand, making day to day operations a challenge in typical circumstances. And that challenge is only made worse by the pandemic.
The Honorable Alex Azar
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201
Dear Secretary Azar,
Rural hospitals are the backbone of communities across our nation. These providers are on the frontlines combating the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. It is imperative these health care professionals receive the immediate support they need to continue caring for our communities.
Small and rural hospitals across the nation are facing an acute financial crisis. Even before this crisis, nearly-half of rural hospitals were operating at a financial loss, and hundreds were on the brink of closure. Now, they are confronting impossible choices during this public health emergency. The administration must focus on ensuring the financial viability of these providers. Failure to take fast and aggressive action will put the health of our communities at further risk.
In response to this crisis, Congress has enacted a series of bipartisan laws to rescue our economy and health care system. Most recently, we passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). This legislation includes new funding to provide financial relief for hospitals. The CARES Act provides you with the flexibility to deliver assistance where it is needed most. Right now, some rural hospitals are reporting they are running out of operating funds. This jeopardizes their ability to maintain health care services during the COVID-19 outbreak. We cannot afford to ignore their pressing needs.
The vast majority of rural hospitals have also ceased performing elective procedures and seeing non-urgent patients. They know the COVID-19 emergency confronting our country must take precedence. However, these actions threaten their financial viability. We are hearing from rural hospitals from across the country that have only days left of cash-on-hand – money needed for payroll and supplies.
Mr. Secretary, our rural providers need your immediate assistance. Congress has provided you with the funding and flexibility. Now it is up to the administration to respond with rapid action to sustain rural providers. Any unnecessary delay will only worsen this situation.
Therefore, we request you make the financial relief of rural hospitals a priority. Rural hospitals need access to financial resources immediately and in the most streamlined manner. We also request you provide Members of Congress with a personal briefing by teleconference by April 3, 2020.
U.S. Representatives Austin Scott (R-GA), Sam Graves (R-MO), Liz Cheney (R-WY), Bradley Byrne (R-AL), Michael T. McCaul (R-TX), Troy Balderson (R-OH), John Joyce, M.D. (R-PA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Jim Hagedorn (R-MN), John Carter (R-TX), Alex X. Mooney (R-WV), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Jack Bergman (R-MI), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Peter Welch (D-VT), TJ Cox (D-CA), Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Terri A. Sewell (D-AL), Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM), Darren Soto (D-FL), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), Collin C. Peterson (D-MN), Cynthia Axne (D-IA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Ron Kind (D-WI), David B. McKinley, P.E. (R-WV), Greg Gianforte (R-MT), Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-KS), Mike Rogers (R-AL), Brian Babin, D.D.S. (R-TX), Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Ralph Abraham, M.D. (R-LA), Mike Conaway (R-TX), Jodey Arrington (R-TX), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Mike Bost (R-IL), Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-IN), Robert B. Aderholt (R-AL), Angie Craig (D-MN), Ron Wright (R-TX), Gregory F. Murphy, M.D. (R-NC), Ted S. Yoho, D.V.M. (R-FL), Jason Smith (R-MO), James Comer (R-KY), Bob Gibbs (R-OH), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Ben Cline (R-VA), Billy Long (R-MO), Scott Tipton (R-CO), Hal Rogers (R-KY), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Carol D. Miller (R-WV), John Moolenaar (R-MI), David Kustoff (R-TN), Don Young (R-AK), Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Russ Fulcher (R-ID), Mark Green, M.D. (R-TN), Michael Guest (R-MS), John Rose (R-TN), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Neal Dunn, M.D. (R-FL), Elise M. Stefanik (R-NY), French Hill (R-AR), Fred Keller (R-PA), Ron Estes (R-KS), Darin LaHood (R-IL), Tom Cole (R-OK), Andy Harris, M.D. (R-MD), H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Kevin Hern (R-OK), Austin Scott (R-GA), and Brad Wenstrup, D.P.M. (R-OH).
U.S. Senators David Perdue (R-GA), Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), John Barrasso (R-WY), Michael Bennett (D-CO), John Kennedy (R-LA), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), James Lankford (R-OK), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Steve Daines (R-MT), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Todd Young (R-IN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tina Smith (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jon Tester (D-MT), Jim Risch (R-ID), Susan Collins (R-ME), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), John Boozman (R-AR), John Hoeven (R-ND), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Joe Manchin III (D-WV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Angus S. King, Jr. (I-ME), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)