- Three major hospital associations are ramping up lobbying for additional federal relief funds with the release of new polling on Thursday showing widespread public support for U.S. hospitals.
- The polling, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and funded by the Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care and its founding members the American Hospital Association and Federation of American Hospitals, found about three-fourths of Americans view healthcare providers favorably — the highest level of support in history, according to Bill McInturff, a partner at POS.
- Three-fourths of Americans support $100 billion in additional congressional funds for hospitals, including 60% of Republican, 76% of Independent and 89% of Democratic voters. Hospital groups are hoping Congress, which is mulling a fourth round of COVID-19 relief legislation, will tack on another $100 billion in grants to the already approved $175 billion pot.
In a series of bills passed earlier this year, Congress allocated $175 billion in grants for struggling providers. But over the past few months, powerful hospital lobbies have angled for more funds, telling Washington the relief — while helpful — isn't nearly enough as COVID-19 cases mount in the South and West.
"We're not out of the woods yet," AHA CEO Rick Pollack told reporters on Thursday. "More action is urgently needed."
Providers say they have faced a triple whammy of economic headwinds during the pandemic: increased numbers of uninsured patients amid rising unemployment lowering reimbursement rates, reduced revenues because of fewer elective procedures, and increased expenses to grow capacity and combat COVID-19.
AHA estimates the financial fallout for hospitals from the first four months of the pandemic was more than $200 billion. That's more than $50 billion a month from March through June. The group expects U.S. hospitals could lose $323 billion over 2020, or an average of $20 billion monthly from July through December.
The House passed the Democrat-backed HEROES Act in May, which benchmarks an additional $100 billion to providers. But the $3 trillion package is a nonstarter in the Republican-controlled Senate, though Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he'd consider a fourth round of legislation after the Senate returns from its July 4 recess next week.
Provider execs were generally optimistic more funding would be pushed through the Senate, with Federation of American Hospitals CEO Chip Kahn telling reporters, "I think we may have a chance at some extra money."
The polling of 800 registered voters in late June found just 21% of Americans oppose hospitals receiving $100 billion in federal relief funding, while 4% said they didn't know.
The results were generally consistent across party lines, though Democrats were on average slightly more likely to support additional government aid. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 3.46 percentage points.
Provider groups are also asking for additional relief and protections from Washington beyond straight cash, including support to keep furloughed or laid off workers on insurance, like COBRA subsidies, and protection for medical professionals against COVID-19 liability lawsuits. Hospital associations also want the Trump administration to roll back a looming deadline to repay accelerated Medicare loans in August, or forgive the loans in their entirety.
If participating providers who applied for loans early in the program are unable to begin paying them back, they could lose Medicare fee-for-service payments, which make up roughly a fourth of a U.S. hospital's revenue on average.
"I think we'll be hearing from Congress sooner rather than later," Marna Borgstrom, CEO of Yale New Haven Health System and CPAHC head, said on Thursday.