U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith on Saturday helped introduce bipartisan legislation to relieve the growing financial crisis facing an overstressed rural health care system with the spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).
The Immediate Relief for Rural Facilities and Providers Act (S.3559), introduced by U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), was offered as negotiations continue on new, massive legislation to continue addressing the health care and economic fallout from COVID-19.
“The stress on rural hospitals in Mississippi and across the country was critical before the coronavirus hit, and that stress will only get worse going forward. This new legislation is specifically-intended to help hospitals and other providers to stay open as the pandemic runs its course,” Hyde-Smith said.
Rural hospitals will be affected as federal and state governments suspend elective surgeries to accommodate mounting coronavirus cases. While medically necessary given the pandemic, these orders could force widespread closures among rural hospitals that rely disproportionately on elective procedures to keep their doors open.
S.3559 would provide financial assistance to rural hospitals and providers to allow them to keep their doors open, make payroll, and continue serving patients, especially those with cancer and other chronic diseases. Open beds in rural hospitals could also become essential to accommodate patient transfers from overwhelmed urban hospitals.
In addition to Hyde-Smith, Barrasso, and Bennet, S.3559 was also sponsored by Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.).
The Immediate Relief for Rural Facilities and Providers Act would:
- Provide Immediate Relief for Rural Hospitals with an emergency mandatory one-time grant to Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) and rural Prospective Payment System (PPS) hospitals equaling $1,000 per patient day for three months.
- Provide Stabilization for Rural Hospitals with a one-time, emergency grant for CAH and rural PPS hospitals equaling the total reimbursement received for services for three months to stabilize the loss of revenue.
- Encourage Hospital Coordination with a 20 percent increase in Medicare reimbursement for any patient in a rural hospital using the swing bed program to incentivize freeing up capacity in larger, overcrowded hospitals.
- Provide Stabilization and Relief for Providers with an emergency, one-time grant for all providers and ambulatory surgery centers equal to their total payroll from January 1 – April 1, 2019.
- Provide Funding for Physicians and Providers by authorizing the Small Business Administration to provide low interest loans to providers and ambulatory surgery centers at a 0.25 percent interest rate that will not accrue until two years after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended.
The bill text is available HERE.
Release from Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith.