Legislation introduced to provide relief for rural hospitals

Rep. Terri Sewell.
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On Monday, March 23, lawmakers Terri Sewell (AL-07), Phil Roe (TN-01) and Kim Schrier (WA-08) introduced a legislation titled the “Immediate Relief for Rural Facilities and Providers Act.”

The legislation seeks to provide relief efforts for rural hospitals as the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic continues nationwide and in Alabama where 215 cases are now confirmed by the state public health department.

“While the coronavirus outbreak will have an impact on all health care providers, the economic pressures of this crisis could be the death knell for our already-struggling rural hospitals in Alabama unless they receive targeted economic relief,” Sewell said in a press release.

“This bipartisan legislation will go a long way in stabilizing our rural hospitals by providing immediate payments to our rural health care providers to help ensure they are able to keep their doors open during this pandemic.”

In the press release, Sewell anticipates that the growing number of coronavirus cases could potentially cause closures of rural hospitals relying on elective medical procedures that were suspended statewide.

The bill introduced on Monday would provide a number of actions, which can be seen in the following from the press release:

  • Provide Immediate Relief for Rural Hospitals with an emergency mandatory one-time grant to rural hospitals equaling $1,000 per patient day for three months.
  • Provide Stabilization for Rural Hospitals with a one-time, emergency grant equaling the total reimbursement received for services for three months to stabilize the loss of revenue.
  • Encourage Hospital Coordination with a 20% 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% interest rate that will not accrue until two years after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended.

The bill can be seen online here.