WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S.
Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related
Agencies, joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of 121 Members of Congress in
sending a letter to the Trump administration calling for immediate assistance
to rural hospitals and clinics.
The lawmakers specifically called on
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to use funding included in
the recently-passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES
Act) to sustain rural health providers.
The CARES Act included $100 billion to
reimburse health providers for costs associated with responding to COVID-19. It
is important that these funds are provided to rural providers because the
decision to cease performing elective procedures and seeing non-urgent patients
can affect rural hospitals more significantly because they have smaller
population bases and smaller financial margins. In addition to providing
this funding, Blunt was integral in ensuring that hospitals are able to receive
prospective payments for COVID-19 related care. This allows hospitals to
receive funding prior to expenditures, because many small and rural hospitals
do not have the financial means to make large purchases, like ventilators,
In their letter, the lawmakers urged
Azar to take immediate steps to provide financial relief for rural providers
during this global pandemic:
“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,” wrote the lawmakers. “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.”
The lawmakers also requested the
administration host a teleconference with Members of Congress by April 3, 2020
to provide an update on how they intend to assist rural providers and hospitals
across the country.
to read the letter.