WSHA continues to hear from hospitals about the broad and devastating impacts on the health care system from COVID-19. While initial funding from the CARES bill was appreciated and has helped, it is only a first step toward addressing the need for relief for hospitals/health systems. WSHA has been working with our Congressional delegation to advocate for additional emergency funding and other important changes in the next Congressional bill for COVID-19 relief bill being discussed now. WSHA supports:
- Allocating an additional $100 billion, in addition to the $100 billion in the CARES Act, for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to be dedicated to hospitals – especially those in rural areas and in COVID hotspots and with high Medicare Advantage penetration.
- Changing the Medicare Accelerated Payment program: 1) forgiving the amount of the advance payment; 2) if not total forgiveness, delaying the date repayment begins to at least a year from issuance of the payment and extending the final repayment deadline to 36 months; and 3) waiving the interest payment altogether or reducing it to 1 – 2 percent.
- Increasing funding to the Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program and expanding the program to Public Hospital Districts. We support the $250 billion figure that has been cited by the administration and members of Congress. In addition, SBA needs to ensure that public hospital districts that are also 501(c)3 organizations can participate in the program. If the SBA doesn’t clarify this, it should be included in the next relief bill.
- Enacting liability protections that place caps on damages or exempt providers from liability while working during the national emergency.
Continuing to remove barriers to the use of telehealth. One helpful change would be to have Medicare pay the encounter rate for telehealth services when the physician is located in the rural health clinic. Investment in broadband infrastructure in rural areas is also needed. (Chelene Whiteaker, email@example.com, John Flink, firstname.lastname@example.org)