The COVID-19 Provider Relief Fund has been a lifeline for hospitals, health systems and health care providers, allowing them to continue to put the health and safety of patients and health care personnel first. In many cases, the funds ensured they were able to keep their doors open. 

So, some good news this week on the PRF: It appears that the bipartisan Senate infrastructure package will not use as an offset to pay for the bill previously appropriated PRF funding for hospitals, health systems, physicians, nurses and other health care providers providing heroic care during a global pandemic.

Diverting these funds in order to offset the costs of an infrastructure proposal while the COVID-19 pandemic surges would have been incredibly shortsighted and misguided since once again we are seeing an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in many areas of the country. And health experts worry that the more contagious delta variant, combined with lower vaccination rates in certain parts of the country, could spur an even larger surge in COVID-19 cases during the fall and winter.  

Hospitals, health systems and other care providers must remain equipped to battle COVID-19. The Department of Health and Human Services has not begun a PRF distribution in nearly seven months, and Congress should encourage the Administration to distribute the remaining PRF funds without further delay. 

That’s why we were pleased that lawmakers negotiating the infrastructure compromise listened to the concerns of the AHA, which were strongly reinforced by our members and state hospital association partners.

However, we continue to oppose an extension of the Medicare sequestration cuts that expire on Sept. 30, 2030, and would be extended into 2031, which is reportedly currently included as a pay-for in the infrastructure bill. We do not believe that Medicare funds should be used to finance non-health care programs, and providers cannot sustain additional cuts to the Medicare program. Our efforts to change this provision will continue as this legislation evolves, with many steps ahead.

In addition, we were pleased to see the Provider Relief Fund Deadline Extension Act introduced this week. The bipartisan, bicameral bill would allow providers that received COVID-19 PRF payments prior to June 30, 2020, to use their payments through Dec. 31, 2021, or the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, whichever is later. The deadline to use those funds was June 30, 2021. We’ll continue working to secure support for this legislation with the goal of including it as part of a larger legislative package. 

America’s hospitals and health systems continue to care for patients and battle the effects of the pandemic every day. Be certain, we will continue to work aggressively to make sure Congress provides hospitals with the resources and support they need to confront the continuing COVID-19 public health emergency. 

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