American hospitals want more time to use emergency COVID-19 funding and are asking the Biden administration to extend a June 30 spending deadline.
As The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday (May 21), there is still more than $30 billion in unspent cash from the $187 billion healthcare relief package approved by Congress. The money was intended to help hospitals recover from COVID-related losses, but “delays have dogged the program,” as the Journal said.
“We are again going to be driven by the facts in this case to make sure those providers who have a need get those needs addressed,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said at a recent House subcommittee budget hearing about the funding.
Even as more and more people receive coronavirus vaccinations, hospitals are feeling a financial burden. COVID patients still need treatment, and many intensive care units are at capacity. Meanwhile, costs have gone up for staffing, supplies and drugs, while revenue from elective procedures has dropped.
The American Hospital Association estimated that the deferral of these procedures — coupled with the cost of dealing with the pandemic — cost the industry $50 billion per month from March until June of 2020. “I think that’s actually a conservative estimate,” Dominick Colabella, CEO of Rectangle Health, said in an interview with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster. He predicted in January that hospitals and healthcare organizations will continue to feel the effects and incur the losses from the continued reduced volumes into 2021.
Last year’s surge in new COVID cases has abated, but infection control measures have still put a strain on hospital budgets. According to the Journal, the number of hospitalized COVID patients in the U.S. has fallen to a seven-day average of about 34,380, compared to 137,900 in mid-January.
Health analysts told the newspaper that it has taken time to allocate the funding because the HHS had to decide how to dole out the money, aiming to ensure that it goes to the hospitals that need it most.