Health Care

HHS awards $7.5 billion in COVID-19 aid to rural providers

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The Health and Human Services Department is distributing a long-awaited, $7.5 billion tranche of COVID-19 relief money to rural providers, the department announced Tuesday.

The latest disbursements from the Provider Relief Fund—which is intended to help providers weather the financial difficulties posed by the pandemic—will go to more than 40,000 providers in 50 states, the District of Columbia and six territories.

“Healthcare providers in rural communities have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and they continue to experience significant financial hardships,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a news release. “The infusion of these funds will be critical to ensuring rural communities maintain access to high-quality health care and addressing urgent needs like workforce recruitment and retention.”

Rural providers, many of which have tight operating margins and have struggled to stay afloat during the novel coronavirus outbreak, had been eagerly awaiting the funding, which Congress and President Joe Biden authorized in March.

The average allotment is $170,000 and payment amounts range from $500 to $43 million. The size of the award is based on providers’ Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program claims for rural beneficiaries from Jan. 1, 2019 through Sept. 30, 2020. Every provider that served at least one rural Medicare, Medicaid or CHIP beneficiary in that period is eligible for funding.

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HHS is still processing applications and there is about $1 billion for rural providers that has not yet been awarded.

The largest payment, $43 million, will go to Baptist Health, a not-for-profit system based in Louisville, Kentucky, that owns eight acute-care hospitals in the state with a total capacity of more than 2,700 beds.

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