Forum Photo by Michael V. Cusenza
Jamaica Hospital Medical Center
By Forum Staff
Congress must provide financial relief to hospitals struggling to stay afloat due to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said Friday.
In a letter to Senate leaders, Gillibrand called for Medicare accelerated/advanced payment program loan forgiveness for hospitals across New York. To date, the state has experienced nearly 400,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, nearly 100,000 hospitalizations, and approximately 25,000 deaths. New York’s hospitals have had to make significant investments to prepare for and respond to the surge of COVID-19 patients at significant cost, while losing billions of dollars in revenue. Hospitals in New York reported an average revenue loss of over 40 percent in March alone, and were losing at least $750 million per week at the beginning of the pandemic.
While the CARES Act authorized the Medicare accelerated/advanced payments, a lifeline for many hospitals, the steep interest that accompanied the loans coupled with ongoing financial devastation, has left many hospitals unable to repay. Without additional federal support, New York hospitals will be forced to make disastrous cuts like reducing health care services and laying off workers, Gillibrand said.
“New York’s hospitals have been on the frontlines of the coronavirus response and the financial strain is staggering,” the senator added. “Our hospitals are in dire need of resources to continue to care for New Yorkers and I will continue to prioritize funding for our health care system. Congress must ensure that our local hospitals receive federal support in the form of loan forgiveness in order to continue keeping New Yorkers healthy and safe.”
“Every New York hospital has made significant financial investments to prepare for and respond to the surge of coronavirus patients,” Gillibrand wrote in her missive to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Since the start of the pandemic, our hospitals have rapidly added beds in intensive care units, built new isolation units to treat COVID-19 patients, and bought personal protective equipment at record prices. In addition, many New York hospitals are providing other services such as housing and childcare to support the brave physicians, nurses, and frontline health care workers who are making tremendous sacrifices every day to care for their fellow New Yorkers. Furthermore, New York hospitals were not permitted to do non-emergency procedures over the last several months. These actions were appropriate to adequately care for COVID-19 patients and to bend the curve of the pandemic, but the curtailment of non-emergency procedures was extremely costly.”
Gillibrand noted that leaders of one NY hospital said, “The advance payment loans from Medicare were a welcome and necessary emergency bridge to help hospitals like ours through the crisis. While we proudly met the call to serve both our patients and greater public health interests, the demands of this pandemic had a near-crippling effect on hospital finances. The terms that accompany these advance payment loans only exacerbate the problem. Repayment on those terms is virtually impossible. Forgiveness is the only viable solution.”