FAH to Senate: Pass more funding for providers now, change advance payment program

The Federation of American Hospitals (FAH) is imploring Senate leaders to pass a House bill that would give providers another $100 billion to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hospital group sent a letter (PDF) Thursday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that also asks for changes to Medicare payments. Senate Republicans have been reticent to take up the $3 trillion economic stimulus package the House passed along largely party lines.

Congress already passed $175 billion in funding for providers that have been wracked by plummeting patient volumes and the suspension of elective procedures.

However, more funding is needed to build upon that amount, the federation said.

“Further delay will hinder our ability to respond to and recover from the current crisis and jeopardize the long-term viability of community hospitals and other essential providers,” the letter said.

RELATED: Providence, Ascension post losses in Q1 as COVID-19 causes drop in patient admissions

But Senate Republicans have blasted the bill, which includes billions for states and localities, as a partisan wish list.

The group also wanted major changes to the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payments Program.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) boosted the program to give out advance payments to providers in the throes of the pandemic.

However, the program’s repayment terms need to be changed to give struggling providers more time, FAH said. Providers are required to pay back Medicare within a year, but some providers may have to start repayment earlier.

“As currently designed, Medicare payments to our short-stay acute care hospitals will be garnished down to zero starting in July and August (as early as June for other facilities and providers), right in the midst of the continuing crisis,” the letter said. “This will nullify much of the benefit the program was intended to confer and place insurmountable financial stress on already struggling facilities and providers.”

FAH wants Congress to require CMS to resume the accelerated payments program that was suspended last month. CMS has put out about roughly $100 billion to providers through the program.

RELATED: Advocate Aurora, Banner join health systems buying stake in PPE maker to improve the supply chain

FAH also wants a new metric for how provider relief funds passed by Congress are doled out to hospitals.

The best way to determine payments is based on a combination of lost revenue and COVID-19 costs, the letter said.

The Department of Health and Human Services distributed the first tranche of funding based on Medicare payments. The agency has since said it will also tailor distribution to COVID-19 hot spots and rural areas.

FAH does ask Congress for something that Republicans are receptive to: liability protection for healthcare workers.

The group asked for immunity from liability for any “injury or death alleged to have been sustained because of any acts or omissions undertaken in good faith while providing health care services in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response.”