Latta: Rural America’s Hospitals & Providers Need Relief
Latta leads bipartisan letter to HHS to request funds granted to hospitals through the CARES Act are appropriately allocated to rural hospitals and providers
This week, Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH5) led a bipartisan letter to the Department of Health and Human Services to request that the increased funding for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund through the CARES Act is equitably distributed to small rural hospitals, critical access hospitals and other rural providers who are in grave need of help as they combat the coronavirus pandemic.
About one third of all hospitals in our country are rural hospitals and before the coronavirus pandemic hit, almost half of all rural hospitals were in the middle of a closure crisis. Rural hospitals and providers are critically important because they provide needed care and services to people in an accessible way. 20 percent of our population live in rural communities but only nine percent of physicians practice in rural communities. Increasing funding for rural hospitals and providers ensures more people can receive critical emergency and primary care services without having to travel to urban or suburban areas.
The full letter can be found below and HERE:
Dear Secretary Azar and Deputy Secretary Hargan,
Without intervention, COVID-19 will close hundreds of rural hospitals across the country, and tens of thousands of rural patients will lose access to their nearest emergency room. The loss of revenue over the last few weeks, due to the inability to provide non-emergency care, is destabilizing core health services in rural America. Prior to the pandemic, nearly half of all rural hospitals were operating at a loss and rural closure rates were escalating dramatically. Today, these already financially fragile hospitals face catastrophic cash shortages. Many have furloughed staff, instituted massive cuts or are shuttering their doors.
The CARES Act increased funding for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund by $100 billion in order to reimburse eligible health care providers for health care-related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to COVID-19. Eligible providers are public entities, Medicare or Medicaid enrolled suppliers and providers, and other for-profit and non- profit entities designated by HHS. The law specified that funding be distributed on a rolling basis through “the most efficient payment systems practicable to provide emergency payment.”
We share significant concerns that the $100 billion provider fund will not be equitably distributed to small rural hospitals, critical access hospitals and other rural providers who are in grave need of help. We, therefore, ask that any formula to allocate this fund include the following metrics:
Last year rural hospitals closures hit a record high, and 2020 is on pace to be even higher. So far this year we have had eight rural hospitals close, with several more on the brink. About 60 million people, nearly one in five Americans, live in rural areas and depend on their local hospitals for care. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, rural hospitals were already operating on shoe-string budgets, and with the cancellation of elective procedures, have a desperate and immediate need for more funding.
Therefore, we request you make this funding available immediately to provide relief to our struggling health care providers. We also request you provide Members of Congress with a personal briefing by teleconference on this matter no later than April 13, 2020.
The letter was signed by Reps. Latta, Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO), Jack Bergman (R-MI), TJ Cox (D-CA), and 31 other members of Congress. See the letter for the full list.
Congressman Latta encourages anyone who needs assistance to contact his office at 419-354-8700. Ohioans living in the Fifth Congressional District can also call 419-318-8925 to leave a message and Congressman Latta’s team will respond as soon as possible. For up-to-date information, visit Congressman Latta’s website at www.latta.house.gov.