Hospitals to Biden: Don't touch relief funds or restore sequester cuts to pay for infrastructure

Hospital groups are demanding that President Joe Biden and Congress stay away from diverting unspent COVID-19 relief funds to help pay for a bipartisan infrastructure package.

The collection of groups wrote to the White House and congressional leaders Tuesday outlining major concerns with the bipartisan framework for infrastructure that is expected to be considered by Congress in July. They were also concerned with restoring cuts to Medicare payments that were paused due to the pandemic.

“The need for these funds remains strong, as many healthcare facilities are still recovering from the impact of the pandemic, and unfortunately caseloads have increased in some areas of the country due to new virus variants and a lack of vaccinations,” the letter said.

America’s Essential Hospitals, the American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals and the Association of American Medical Colleges were among the nine groups and organizations that signed onto the letter.

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The pay-for was included in a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package Biden announced June 24. The package, supported by 10 Republican senators, included funding on a variety of infrastructure items such as modernizing roads and information technology systems.

But the framework calls for repurposing any unused COVID-19 relief funds as a way to pay for the infrastructure upgrades.

“As you know, hospitals and health systems and other healthcare providers are awaiting the distribution of additional dollars in provider relief funds as well as the recently allocated $8.5 billion for rural healthcare providers,” the letter said.

The Department of Health and Human Services has previously said there is roughly $24 billion out of the $178 billion appropriated as part of the CARES Act that still needs to be distributed.

Providers that received money by June 30, 2020, have to spend all of their funding by Wednesday or else return the funding. Providers that got money later have more flexibility to use up their money.

Another plan would reinstall a 2% cut to Medicare payments to providers. The cuts were installed as part of sequestration but paused last year to help providers facing financial revenue drops from the pandemic.