Nonprofit hospitals and health systems want funding for new equipment, expansions in congressional earmarks

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Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are asking for new federal earmarks to help hospitals in their districts buy a range of new items like CT scanners or mobile health clinics. (Getty Images/Bill Chizek)

Earmarks are coming back in Congress, and nonprofit hospitals and health systems have asked lawmakers for new state-of-the-art medical equipment and expansions to behavioral health and emergency rooms.

The House Appropriations Committee released the requests from lawmakers for earmarks in the next appropriations bill. Those requests include new funding from major nonprofit hospitals and health systems for a variety of things ranging from new CT scanners to telehealth.

For-profit entities are not allowed to get any such funding.

Each lawmaker can request 10 projects for consideration by the House Appropriations Committee, which will decide on the projects to include in the next appropriation bill that goes to the House floor in July, said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Rhode Island, during an interview with Brookings Institution on Thursday.

DeLauro said the committee will decide on which projects get a share of $14 billion in discretionary funding.

Earmarks have been banned for more than 10 years, but now lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are keen to resume the targeted discretionary funding for various projects in their districts.

Here are some examples of the earmarks that lawmakers have requested as reviewed on their websites by Fierce Healthcare:

  • $2.5 million to Erlanger Health System to expand the Kennedy Outpatient Center to create a new pediatric MRI, three procedural rooms and a post-anesthesia care unit at the outpatient center. The goal is to help improve care for the uninsured pediatric patients the center cares for in the Chattanooga region;
  • $1.9 million for the purchase of capital equipment for the Lockport Memorial Hospital Campus of Mount St. Mary’s Hospital. The healthcare system Catholic Health plans to liquidate and dissolve Eastern Niagara Hospital, which filed for bankruptcy in November 2019, and create a new hospital owned and operated by Catholic Health. Eastern Niagara’s board agreed in the fall of 2020 to be acquired by Catholic Health;
  • $2.4 million for NYC Health + Hospitals of Coney Island to buy 10 ultrasound units to replace existing units that have ended their service life and have software that is no longer supported by the vendor.
  • $3 million for Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital to replace its CT scanner and purchase a linear accelerator that is used for radiation cancer treatments. The request aims to give patients more contemporary radiation treatments that require fewer treatment sessions, according to the request.
  • $1.1 million to Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, enabling the facility to buy a Siemens Icono System, which can be used by the cardiology team to perform “new and complex procedures,” according to the request. The goal is to help the hospital tackle heart disease, a leading cause of death in Michigan.
  • $998,000 to Cedars-Sinai to purchase simulation equipment that upgrades the system’s Simulation Center. “There is an increasing need to manage patients closer to their home both before and after treatment,” according to Rep. Ted Lieu’s website, who requested the earmark. “This funding will allow Cedars Sinai to improve patient outcomes by providing advance training to medical professionals who will be able to treat patients with complex medical issuers closer to the patient’s home.”
  • $1.2 million to Adventist Health’s White Memorial Medical Center to expand the catheterization laboratory. The hospital wants to improve healthcare access to those in vulnerable populations that are suffering from long-term COVID-19 effects and chronic illnesses, the request said.
  • Funding to create or bolster new community health centers and rural clinics. Several lawmakers asked for earmarks aimed at boosting community health centers or free clinics in their areas to improve care for medically underserved populations. For example, a community health center in San Pedro, California, is requesting $1 million to build out a new 4,900-square-foot health clinic aimed at creating six to 10 primary care and behavioral health exam rooms and an in-house pharmacy. Another community health center in Clearwater, Florida, is asking for $2 million to boost mental health treatments, a major need that has been exacerbated since the pandemic.
  • Money to create new or improved mobile units to treat underserved populations. Lawmakers do not just want to boost community health centers but also explore other ways to reach underserved areas. Several earmarks focus on building new mobile health units to accomplish this goal. One earmark proposes to give St. Louis University $500,000 to create a mobile health clinic that will help people who lack nearby healthcare facilities or transportation to clinics or don’t have the technology to access telehealth.