Mass. Hospitals Shortchanged on Federal Coronavirus Funding, Advocates Say

Less money flowed from the federal government at a time when the state needed it most, according to the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association

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Even though Massachusetts has been dubbed a coronavirus hotspot in the nation, the state places next to last when it comes to the amount of federal funding per-case, according to hospital advocates.

The Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association argues that the funding formulas used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to distribute the money – as well as the cutoff dates the government used to assess the number of coronavirus cases in a state – has meant that the commonwealth’s large surge in cases was not counted fully.

The MHA estimates that as of May 3, Massachusetts hospitals received $15,730 per case of COVID-19, compared to Montana, which was given $617,000 per case.

Based on the funding allocated from the Provider Relief Fund, as well as the recent COVID-19 High Impact and Rural Healthcare Provider allocations, divided by the number of cases in each state, the commonwealth has the second lowest federal hospital relief funding per coronavirus case in the nation, according to the MHA. Rhode Island is the lowest.

Gov. Baker hopes to start reopening Massachusetts on May 18.

The issue has caught the attention of the state’s congressional delegation. Last Thursday, Rep. Richard Neal, a Democrat, joined with Energy & Commerce Chair Frank Pallone, Jr. of New Jersey to write a letter criticizing HHS.

“The Administration’s efforts to establish the Provider Relief Fund to date have been at best, a series of missteps, and at worst, a disregard of Congress’ intent for the program,” Neal and Pallone wrote.

"As demonstrated by the Administration’s inability to capture all provider types and to target funding to those who are most in need of assistance, formula-based distribution mechanisms are insufficient to address the crisis in our healthcare system," the letter said.

"Moreover, such a distribution mechanism runs counter to Congressional intent and to the program language signed into law, which requires funds to be distributed through an application-based process to reimburse for specific COVID-related expenses and lost revenue.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Charlie Baker directed $800 million at MassHealth in stabilization funding to support health care providers impacted by and responding to the coronavirus over a month ago.

The funding supports hospitals, nursing facilities, primary care providers, behavioral health providers, and long-term services and will continue to be distributed through July. The initiative, which gave $400 million to hospitals alone, came in addition to the $290 million in immediate cash relief and $550 million in accelerated payments to providers announced by Baker in March. 

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