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Rural hospitals in state to get help

Emergency funds part of Coronavirus federal relief act

West Virginia hospitals, especially those in rural areas, will receive $159.6 million in emergency funds, part of the distribution of $100 billion provider relief fund included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

“We’re continuing to ensure our hospitals have the funds they need to protect their employees and treat patients,” said U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito in a release announcing the funding. “With the passage of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) deal recently, hospitals can expect another $75 billion to be available to them after the CARES Act funding is exhausted. The federal response for health care providers remains strong and I’m glad our West Virginia hospitals are getting another boost of support.”

It’s not known how much each hospital, including Mon Health System and WVU Health System, will be receiving. It is known, however, $10 billion nationwide will be given to rural health care providers as defined by the Health Resources and Services Administration, the federal agency tasked with making sure the uninsured and under-insured receive health care.

Capito’s office said acute care hospitals will receive a base payment of $1 million. Rural clinics and community health centers will receive a base payment of $100,000. In addition to the base payment, rural providers will also receive monies based on annual operating expenses. These disbursements are payments, and not loans. They will not have to be repaid, Capito’s office said.

U.S. Sen Joe Manchin, said the $159.6 million will help the state’s rural hospitals, but said the state can do better.

“West Virginia ranks sixth for the highest number of rural providers in the country receiving these funds, but despite the ranking we received the 29th highest payment,” Manchin said in a statement. “That doesn’t add up.”

Manchin proposed criteria for monetary distribution be changed to include priority for facilities that provide care for a high percentage of Medicare and Medicaid patients. Plus, facilities that provide for a large percentage of seniors impacted by the viruses and for areas with limited access to health care should also be given favored status, he said.

Because elective surgeries were eliminated when the pandemic first hit the state in March, some hospitals lost 50 to 80% of their revenue making access to these bailout funds crucial. Mon Health System CEO David Goldberg said last week the system is down 50% in revenue since the pandemic began, but said that will be made up since elective surgeries have begun again.

“It’s not all doom and gloom,” he said.

WVU Health System is waiting on some clarification from the federal government about the latest round of COVID-19 funding.

“We appreciate all the assistance our West Virginia congressional delegation has provided, however we have not yet received notice on how the below funds will be distributed by hospital. I don’t think it would be appropriate for the WVU Health System to comment at this time,” said Doug Coffman, WVU Medicine senior vice president of finance and chief financial officer.

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