The Maryland congressional delegation sent a letter Tuesday to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, urging him to reconsider how future money is allocated to Maryland hospitals under the CARES Act, which Congress passed late last month.
The delegation specifically has asked department Secretary Alex Azar to consider COVID-19 hot spots and under-served areas of the state in future disbursements, with an eye towards transparency in the decision-making process.
“We have been hearing from hospitals, health care providers, and other health care entities across our state about the significant costs they have been incurring since COVID-19 materialized as a threat,” the lawmakers wrote. “The quality and effectiveness of our response and our ability to prevent further spread of the virus will be largely dependent on our ability to ensure that health care providers have the resources they need.”
The COVID-19 relief package apportioned $100 billion for hospitals across the country, which are bearing the financial brunt of the public health crisis.
This money is to be used to purchase personal protective and testing equipment, as well as to expand treatment capacity and reimburse facilities for lost revenue.
According to a letter penned jointly by U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) and Reps. Steny H. Hoyer, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John P. Sarbanes, Andrew P. Harris, Anthony G. Brown, Jamie B. Raskin and David J. Trone, the Department of Health and Human Services based funding allocations for the first round of disbursements off of 2019 Medicare Part A and B claims in an effort to speed up the process of apportioning the money.
The delegation argued that this funding algorithm overlooks COVID-19 preparation expenses incurred by many of Maryland’s medical facilities.
“While we understand that using Medicare Parts A and B claims from 2019 allowed HHS to disburse the first tranche of funds quickly, it has disadvantaged other critical providers that serve vulnerable and low-income populations,” they wrote, specifically noting the hit taken by nursing homes, children’s hospitals and health care providers in under-served regions of the state.
Last week, the Trump administration designated the Baltimore-Washington corridor and 12 of Maryland’s counties as emerging COVID-19 hotspots.
As of Tuesday morning, Maryland confirmed 9,472 coronavirus cases and 302 deaths.
The lawmakers said that it was made “very clear” that the monies from the fund were intended for the prevention and response effort by local medical facilities, in addition to refunding hospitals and health care providers for expenses accrued as a result of the public health crisis.
“Therefore, it is disappointing that the formula HHS used to disburse the first tranche of funding did not take into account COVID-related expenses that health care entities have been incurring,” they wrote.
“We urge you to ensure that this important factor is considered in future disbursements.”