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Womack, Arkansas Delegation Urge Hospital Eligibility Expansion for Coronavirus Relief ?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Womack, Arkansas Delegation Urge Hospital Eligibility Expansion for Coronavirus Relief

 

Washington, DC—August 7, 2020….Congressman Steve Womack (AR-3) today led a letter alongside U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—and Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, and Bruce Westerman—urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to amend eligibility thresholds when determining the high-impact payments through the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund to ensure hospitals who saw late surges in hospitalizations can qualify to receive assistance. 

In part, the members wrote, “We strongly urge you to take into account states that saw surges in patients in late June and July when determining distribution of payments for high-impact areas. Congress and the Administration acted swiftly to allocate resources as quickly as possible, and as this pandemic continues to change and impact different parts of this country, it is imperative that our policies remain flexible and the vast resources provided continue to make the most impact.” 

Eligibility for the most recent round of high-impact payments from the Provider Relief Fund were for admissions through June 10th. Because Arkansas’s surge falls just outside the eligibility date for the most recent round of high-impact payments, hospitals in parts of Arkansas are currently ineligible for this specific assistance. With CARES Act funding still available, the Arkansas delegation is urging that eligibility changes be made to both support local hospitals and quickly allocate unutilized funds. 

In addition to contacting HHS Secretary Alex Azar, the delegation also shared their concerns with Vice President Mike Pence who chairs the White House Coronavirus Task Force. They expressed the need to further strengthen resource distribution efforts and want to work together to affirm programs are administered in a way that best serves the public.  

The Arkansas delegation is committed to mobilizing and allocating resources to support Arkansas’s pandemic response and recovery efforts. Through legislative action and advocacy, they have secured billions of dollars to assist local hospitals, healthcare providers, testing capacity, and more. This letter is another step in their oversight efforts to ensure that policies are the most effective and reflect evolving circumstances.  

Full text of the letter to HHS can be found below or here. Additional letter to Vice President Pence can be found here

Dear Secretary Azar,

We write to request that you consider reopening and adjusting eligibility for the most recent round of high-impact payments provided through the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund to account for states that saw surges in hospitalizations in late June and July. Further, in additional funding rounds, we request you take into consideration circumstances outside of admissions per day to ensure our frontline workers can continue to meet the demands of the rapidly evolving pandemic. As Arkansas’s hospitalizations surged in recent weeks, providers heeded the call and worked collaboratively so no one hospital was overwhelmed. This, coupled with the surge in hospitalizations falling just outside the eligibility date for the most recent round of high-impact payments, has left hospitals in parts of Arkansas ineligible for this crucial funding. 

The Northwest Arkansas region illustrates the need to continue to evaluate surge areas and high-impact areas for additional funding through the Provider Relief Fund. Major hospital systems in Northwest Arkansas coordinated early on in the pandemic to prepare for any future surges in inpatients, but the burden has been substantial. 

The first case of COVID-19 admitted to an Arkansas hospital was on March 11th, and only a few days later, hospital systems in Northwest Arkansas and throughout the Natural State began to execute a collaborative response with resource sharing and a balancing strategy. Arkansas’s largest surge of patients came after June 10th, the most recent deadline for the high-impact payments. From June 11th through July 20th, 484 new COVID-19 positive patients were admitted to just three hospitals in Northwest Arkansas, and the total inpatient volume for that region of the state was 690 patients, a 200% growth during that time. The efforts put in place by these hospitals helped to ensure no hospital was overrun, but the strain on resources remains. Without the measures taken early on, the surge Arkansas has seen over the past many weeks may have resulted in dire outcomes. These actions did not come without their costs though. 

We strongly urge you to take into account states that saw surges in patients in late June and July when determining distribution of payments for high-impact areas. Congress and the Administration acted swiftly to allocate resources as quickly as possible, and as this pandemic continues to change and impact different parts of this country, it is imperative that our policies remain flexible in order to allow the vast resources provided to continue to make the most impact. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

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