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State Hospitals Warn Of Cuts Without More Coronavirus Relief Funds

Justin Senior, CEO of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, said member hospitals are struggling financially because of the coronavirus.
Screenshot from Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida Zoom meeting.
Justin Senior, CEO of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, said member hospitals are struggling financially because of the coronavirus.

Of the $175 billion in federal CARES Act funding for hospitals that serve the nation's poorest people, about $50 billion has yet to be allocated.

Those who represent Florida's safety net hospitals - charged with caring for everyone, regardless of their ability to pay - say they are counting on a greater share of that funding if they are to stay afloat. 

Without it, the hospitals that have been on the front lines of the response to the coronavirus pandemic will struggle, said Justin Senior, CEO of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida.

“If the hospitals do not get the funding that they need, the relief that they need based on all the losses that they've had in the response, there are going to be repercussions down the road that will have public health repercussions and we want to head those off," Senior said.

Safety net hospitals have cared for 40 percent of Florida's COVID-19 patients, though they account for only about 10 percent of the state's hospitals.

Florida did not get a fair share of the $125 billion dollars already given to hospitals under the CARES Act, Senior said, and the hospitals are making their case for a bigger slice of remaining $50 billion.

The formula that the federal Department of Health and Human Services used to allocate the funding was too simple, Senior said. It was developed to get the money distributed quickly, but it was not equitable, he said. 

Credit Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida

The formula also doesn't account for the wave of hospitalizations after June 10, and it kept some of the hardest hit hospitals, including Tampa General Hospital, from receiving some money because of a miscalculation of the hospitals’ profit margins, he said.

"Ultimately, I think that the fairest way to do it would probably be something associated either with beds or with bed days for the patients,” Senior said.

“And that would be roughly 7 percent - between 7and 8 percent. And Florida's not there yet. They've received a little bit more than half of that.”

The additional funding would be used to bring staff members back from furloughs, reverse pay cuts and offset the loss of funds from temporarily stopping scheduled and elective procedures to free up capacity for COVID-19 patients, Senior said.

The safety net group is also making its case for the federal government to convert Medicare advance payments from loans into grants.

Senior said there is no Plan B. The hospitals need help from the state and federal government or some hard decisions will have to be made.

Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.
Daylina Miller
Daylina Miller, multimedia reporter for Health News Florida, was hired to help further expand health coverage statewide.