The federal government will use a portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act’s $100 billion emergency fund for hospitals and health care providers to reimburse providers treating uninsured COVID-19 patients, President Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Friday.
“Under the President’s direction, we will use a portion of that funding to cover providers’ costs of delivering COVID-19 care for the uninsured, sending the money to providers through the same mechanism used for testing,” Azar said. “As a condition of receiving funds under this program, providers will be forbidden from balance billing the uninsured for the cost of their care. Providers will be reimbursed at Medicare rates. We will soon have more specifics on how the rest of the $100 billion will go to providers.”
In a statement, AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack said, “Nobody has been a stronger advocate for covering the uninsured than America's hospitals and health systems, particularly during a public health emergency. That's why we have encouraged the Administration to look at various options to provide coverage for treatment of the uninsured for the Coronavirus other than utilizing the emergency fund from the CARES Act. This could include opening up a special enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act's marketplaces, expanding Medicaid and using the National Disaster Medical System or other federal emergency programs, among other ideas. Hospitals and health systems also support the proposals from members of Congress for a new, separate fund to specifically address the costs associated with treatment of the uninsured.”
In addition, Pollack noted that the emergency relief fund “was intended to provide hospitals with an infusion of emergency relief as providers incur substantial expenses in preparing and dealing with fighting this battle against COVID-19. At the same time, given that virtually all regular operations have come to a halt — such as elective or scheduled procedures — there are limited revenues coming in, causing major cash flow concerns that threaten the viability of hospitals. This is also creating a historic financial crisis, threatening the ability to keep our doors open for both the insured and uninsured alike. Because hospitals and health systems, and our dedicated caregivers, are on the front lines of this pandemic, we continue to urge the release of the CARES Act emergency relief funds as soon as possible. This critical funding will help ensure that our health care providers can continue to be there for everyone and have the support and resources that are needed to deliver care to their patients and communities.”