Manchin urges HHS to preserve healthcare providers, rural hospital access to pandemic relief funding

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) led two groups of bipartisan Senators in expressing concern to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar about the recent change in reporting requirements for hospitals and health systems that receive relief funds from the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) and urged the Administration to protect access to this vital funding. Rural hospitals and hospitals that serve high numbers of low-income, elderly, and severely ill patients – could be particularly burdened by the new reporting requirements, due to their already thin financial margins.

Senator Manchin said in part, “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our health care providers need more certainty, not less. The CARES Act, enacted in March 2020, established the PRF to reimburse eligible health care providers for health care-related expenses and lost revenues attributable to the coronavirus. Hospitals and other providers received funds and have budgeted accordingly. However, we are still in the midst of a pandemic and providers continue to face uncertainty in terms of loss of revenue from delayed procedures and care as well as increased expenses related to COVID-19.”

Senator Manchin also stated, “We have heard from hospitals and health systems in our states who are concerned that this change in the definition of lost revenue will force them to return funds to HHS that they have received from the PRF. In particular, rural hospitals and those that serve high numbers of low-income, elderly, and severely ill patients—which already operate on thin financial margins—may be especially impacted by this change.”

HHS released initial reporting requirements in June for providers receiving PRF funds that directed these entities to define lost revenue as “any revenue that you as a health care provider lost due to coronavirus, ” but HHS released updated reporting requirements on September 19 that directed providers to instead use changes in their net operating income to calculate lost revenue – a substantial change from the initial June guidance that is expected to reduce the amount of lost revenues that providers are able to report. This shift in reporting requirements changes the terms of the relief as hospitals and health systems initially understood them and will likely create further uncertainty for providers at a time when they are already facing serious financial challenges.

To view the first letter to Secretary Azar, please click here.


To view the second letter to Secretary Azar, please click here.

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