June 4, 2020
The Chairs and Ranking Members of the Congressional committees of jurisdiction over the Medicaid program yesterday sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, urging payments be made to Medicaid-dependent providers from the provider relief fund. The letter was signed by House Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR), House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) and Senate Finance Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR).
“As the chairs and ranking members of the committees of jurisdiction over the Medicaid program, we are concerned that the delay in disbursing funds from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF) for Medicaid-dependent providers could result in long term financial hardship for providers who serve some of our most vulnerable populations. It could also severely hamper their ability to continue to serve as essential providers amid the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” they wrote in the letter. “We write regarding the need for a dedicated distribution from the PHSSEF for providers who rely on Medicaid and to share our serious concerns with the ongoing delay of funding. In addition, we write to ascertain the timeline for when these funds will be distributed by [HHS] and under what parameters.”
Additionally, the letter acknowledged that the agency may be hampered by difficulties in accessing data necessary to determine and apply methodologies for distribution. Specifically, the letter requested HHS provide the letter’s authors with answers to questions about how the agency will determine a future payment for Medicaid-dependent providers.
“We understand that there may be federal data limitations in Medicaid that do not exist in Medicare. We also understand that some of the delay in formulating an equitable Medicaid distribution was due to both a delay in requesting the data from states as well as in receiving needed information from some states once the data was requested,” they wrote. “However, it is our sincere hope that HHS can martial its resourcefulness, and its relationship with states, to develop a methodology to fairly and robustly allocate funds for Medicaid providers that reflects their costs, the nature of their care, and the financial pressures they face. Medicaid-dependent providers serve some of the frailest and most vulnerable Americans. We must not let their financial insolvency due to the COVID-19 pandemic threaten access to essential care for these individuals.”
Congress appropriated $175 billion for the PHSSEF to assist hospitals and other healthcare providers in preparing for and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, IHA sent a letter to HHS urging a targeted distribution for hospitals serving high numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients, as well as communities of color, which have been disproportionately harmed by the virus.