In a letter to the editor published today by the Washington Post, AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack responds to a recent article in the paper’s Business section, which suggested COVID-19 relief funds enriched “wealthy” hospital systems.
Pollack writes, “America’s hospitals and health systems are providing essential services to their patients and communities during this pandemic, all while facing their greatest financial crisis. Last year, we estimated the hospital field would lose over $320 billion in 2020, and will lose an additional $50 billion to $120 billion in 2021. Respected organizations such as Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s have released outlooks that also predict continued financial challenges in 2021.
“Congress recognized the critical role hospitals play as the backbone of our health-care system and swiftly took steps to provide support to ensure hospitals would remain resilient. The federal government created multiple formulas to allocate funds to all types of hospitals, and worked appropriately to get this critical relief out quickly as we were facing a crisis situation. These funds, which providers are held accountable for under law, have allowed hospitals to continue to serve all who need care. In most instances hospitals did not apply for the specific amount of funds they received, and if hospitals received more funds than their COVID-19-related expenses and lost revenue will ultimately show, there will be a reporting and auditing process once the pandemic ends, and the excess funding will be returned to the government.
“Each hospital and health system came into the pandemic with its own unique financial situation. Cherry-picking financial data from a few health systems is not reflective of the struggles and challenges facing our field. Moreover, each and every one of them played an integral role in caring for patients and protecting their communities.
“While vaccines give us great hope for the future, with COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rising in many parts of the country, it is in everyone’s interest to keep hospitals strong and our patients healthy.”