July 02, 2020

Manchin, Hyde-Smith, Torres Small, Hagedorn Urge HHS To Provide Relief To Rural Healthcare Providers Affected By COVID-19 Pandemic

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) and Representatives Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM-02) and Jim Hagedorn (R-MN-01) today led 49 Members of Congress in strongly encouraging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to quickly provide relief to rural healthcare providers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senators Manchin and Hyde-Smith and Representatives Torres Small and Hagedorn on May 21 introduced the Save Our Rural Health Providers Act (S.3823/HR.7004) to create a new formula to ensure the Provider Relief Fund has a dedicated set-aside amount directed towards rural areas of America.

The Members said in part, “Rural healthcare was already in crisis prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the situation is only getting worse. Last year rural hospitals closures hit a record high, and 2020 is on pace to be even higher. So far this year twelve rural hospitals have closed, with hundreds more on the brink. Given both the cancellation of elective procedures because of the pandemic and the recent spread of COVID-19 in rural America, rural providers have a desperate and immediate need for more funding. Therefore, we request you make this funding available quickly to provide relief to struggling rural health care providers.”

Across rural America, COVID-19 cases are growing 13 percent faster in rural areas compared to the 9 percent national rate of growth. For two weeks in a row, rural counties have accounted for the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in a seven-day period since this pandemic began. From June 17-24, rural counties had 23,366 new cases of COVID-19. The previous rural cases record was 19,022 new cases from the week of June 9-16. The 60 million Americans living in rural areas generally have more health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19, making the rise in cases across rural America a growing concern.

The letter called on future allocations from the Provider Relief Fund to meet the following metrics:

  • A 20 percent Rural Benchmark in the Provider Relief Fund
  • Priority should be granted to facilities that have been significantly affected by COVID-19 preparation
  • Priority should be granted for facilities that provide care for a disproportionally high percentage of Medicare and Medicaid patients
  • Priority should be granted for facilities that provide care for populations with above average senior populations or co-morbidities that are particularly vulnerable to complications from COVID-19 and for populations in areas:
    • With limited access to health infrastructure;
    • With high uninsured patients.

The Members were also joined by Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Boozman (R-AR), Doug Jones (D-AL), Roger Wicker (R-MS), John Hoeven (R-ND), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Representatives Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Steve King (R-IA), Robert B. Aderholt (R-AL), Terri A. Sewell (D-AL), Troy Balderson (R-OH), Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), Cindy Axne (D-IA), Fred Keller (R-PA), Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Glenn Grothman (R-WI), Collin C. Peterson (D-MN), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Bob Gibbs (R-OH), Austin Scott (R-GA), Abby Finkenauer (D-IA), Josh Harder (D-CA), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Hal Rogers (R-KY), Jack Bergman (R-MI), Michael Guest (R-MS), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Alex Mooney (R-WV), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Trent Kelly (R-MS), Ron Kind (D-WI), Angie Craig (D-MN), Steve Stivers (R-OH), and Elise M. Stefanik (R-NY).

Read the full letter here.