Gabriel Perna | April 24, 2020
The ongoing struggles of rural health care in America are not a secret to anyone in this industry.
In 2019, a record 19 rural hospitals closed. Thus far in 2020, nine hospitals have already closed and the COVID-19 pandemic, with its devastating impact on hospital operating margins, threatens to make it a much more staggering amount.
Financial resources dedicated to providers in the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act will help, rural health advocates say. The National Rural Health Association says that half of rural hospitals and providers operated at a financial loss before the pandemic. The loss of revenue from the pandemic meant hundreds were at risk of closure before the funding came in.
But the funding from Congress hasn’t come without hiccups or concerns. There were complaints that the initial $30 billion to be distributed from HHS didn’t give enough to rural providers. HHS said the next round will be geared towards rural health providers, but America’s Essential Hospitals, a trade group for vulnerable health systems and hospitals, has concerns about how the agency targets its funding dollars.
“Targeting will require complete and accurate data, and we have concerns about technical problems providers now face as they try to comply with the department’s request for targeting data. We call on the department to extend its data submission deadline until it has resolved these technical issues and clearly and publicly communicated how it will use this information,” stated Bruce Siegel, MD, President and CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals. The group also wants HHS to minimize the application process to streamline funding.