The funding, one of the last sticking points in high-stakes talks that stretched over five days, amounts to a major win for hospital lobbies, who had recently intensified calls for a rescue fund to offset huge revenue losses from cancellation of lucrative elective surgeries and major costs from a flood of Covid-19 patients needing critical care. Some cash-strapped rural and safety net hospitals have already warned about their ability to make payroll after calling off non-emergency procedures.
The American Hospital Association, along with the American Medical Association and American Nurses Association, had asked for $100 billion late last week, while for-profit hospitals pushed for more than double the amount.
HHS declined to comment on any discussions about how the department plans to distribute the funds. However, once Congress passes the stimulus, possibly as soon as Wednesday, the lobbying battle will likely shift to the executive branch.
Provider lobbyists in the past several days moved the needle considerably on funding talks.
In their initial plan released last week, Senate Republicans left out any direct funding and instead called for suspending the 2 percent Medicare rate cut from the ongoing sequester while boosting Medicare payments related to Covid-19 treatment by 15 percent. They later proposed $75 billion in grants and other direct funding in an amended package over the weekend, before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday countered with her own stimulus package that boosted the number to $100 billion.
Senate Democrats led by Schumer, who has close ties to his state’s hospitals, had sought even more — closer to the $225 billion pushed by the for-profit hospital lobby Federation of American Hospitals. Schumer claimed Wednesday’s compromise boosted hospital funding by $55 billion over the Senate GOP’s earlier proposal.