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Pennsylvania Hospitals Call on Congress for Loan Forgiveness

July 22, 2020

This week, 24 hospitals and health systems, representing 143 facilities across the commonwealth, issued a letter calling on the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation for full forgiveness of Medicare accelerated payments. This call for federal action comes at a time when Congress is considering additional coronavirus relief legislation.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Accelerated Payment Program provides funds to hospitals when an event disrupts claims submissions or claims processing. These payments to hospitals function as a loan, with the requirement of repayment beginning 120 days after payment is issued. Any remaining balance after the repayment period incurs an extremely high interest rate.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act expanded the Accelerated Payment Program, with CMS consequently reporting that $59.6 billion in accelerated payments were provided to Medicare Part A providers, including hospitals, early on in the COVID-19 crisis.

These payments have been critical for Pennsylvania hospitals, many who entered the coronavirus pandemic on uncertain financial footing, and have subsequently taken monumental losses due to COVID-19, such as the cancellation of scheduled procedures, increased personal protective equipment procurement costs, and a hesitancy among patients returning to care. A report from The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, issued during April, estimated that Pennsylvania hospitals will incur losses due to COVID-19 of more than $10 billion through the end of 2020.

Pennsylvania hospitals remain the primary source of COVID-19 testing and treatment and will continue to face historic challenges during this public health emergency. In addition to forgiveness of accelerated payments, HAP and Pennsylvania hospitals are advocating for the following provisions to be included in the next COVID-19 relief package:

  • Granting appropriate federal liability protections to frontline medical providers and facilities
  • Providing additional federal support for health care heroes
  • Maintaining health benefits for individuals and families, and increasing coverage options for those who are uninsured

The U.S. House passed a $3 trillion COVID-19 relief package, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, during May. The U.S. Senate is in the process of developing legislation that will reflect their priorities. Congressional leaders are hopeful to pass a negotiated agreement before lawmakers return to their home states for the August work period.

For more information about federal advocacy efforts, contact Laura Stevens Kent, HAP’s senior vice president, strategic integration.