Rep. Williams Urges Administration to Provide Greater Relief for Rural Health Care Facilities
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Roger Williams (R-TX-25) called on U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to fully utilize the Provider Relief Fund, established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to allow enhanced support for rural health care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Congressman Williams released the following statement:
“Rural hospitals and clinics are facing unprecedented, catastrophic challenges that threaten to leave tens of thousands of patients without critical services. While Texas has already received millions of dollars in much-needed aid under the CARES Act, we must ensure that funding allotments are fully utilized so providers can safely and effectively care for their communities. I want to thank Secretary Azar for his leadership during this crisis and I will continue partnering with the Administration to ensure our rural health care providers are able to serve Texans.”
Congressman Williams supported the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, both signed into law by President Trump, to provide direct relief to taxpayers and businesses across the country, and billions of dollars in funding to rural health care providers combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Full text of the letter is below. Click here to view the letter online.
Dear Secretary Azar:
Thank you for your continued leadership during the current COVID-19 pandemic. In these unprecedented times, the entire healthcare system is strained to the breaking point. This is especially true for rural providers who were already facing substantial financial challenges prior to this crisis.
Rural America is under enormous pressure. Our constituents need help to ensure continued access to timely, quality medical care. At this critical time, we ask that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) utilize the Provider Relief Fund, established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to provide appropriate support to rural healthcare providers.
Initially, $30 billion was expeditiously disbursed from the fund based upon traditional fee-for-service Medicare payments; however, this formula fails to accurately reflect the funding streams for many rural providers. By excluding Medicare Advantage and Medicaid payments, many rural providers did not receive adequate funding to help cover losses. With this in mind, we appreciate the work you and your team are performing to address these issues for future distributions, and we urge you to establish an updated guidance as quickly as possible.
The administration’s recent announcement that $10 billion of the Provider Relief Fund has been earmarked for rural providers is helpful. Our understanding is that upcoming rural healthcare payments will be based upon operating expenses. If so, please specifically address how you intend to allocate these resources. Further, the Paycheck Protection and Health Care Expansion Act includes an additional $75 billion for Provider Relief Fund. Will HHS utilize these funds to provide targeted relief to rural health care providers, and at what level or percentage?
America’s medical care providers have made substantial sacrifices, financial and otherwise, to prepare for and respond to the surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations. This includes rural providers in our districts who made significant capital investments, such as building new treatment areas, adding negative pressure wings, and bringing respiratory centers online.
Health systems are also losing millions more in revenue because of diverted resources, suspended elective procedures, or closed facilities. While the first payments from the Provider Relief Fund were beneficial, the disbursements equate to less than 25 percent of lost revenues, to date. Compared with larger, and more urban hospitals, rural healthcare providers operate on very narrow margins and are less able to absorb such incredible losses and sustain operations.
Thank you again for your leadership on the current COVID-19 pandemic and your effort to provide the necessary funds to help Americans residing in rural areas of America to maintain access to timely and high-quality medical care.
Congressman Roger Williams represents the 25th Congressional District of Texas and serves as a member of the House Committee on Financial Services.