Front-line providers ask Congress for $100B for supplies

Front-line providers ask Congress for $100B for supplies
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Hospitals and other front-line medical providers are asking Congress for $100 billion in direct payments in order to appropriately respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a joint letter to congressional leaders, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association said Congress should direct the federal agencies "to begin to infuse funds immediately so that they can afford to take the necessary steps to fight the battle against this unseen enemy."

The request is a major increase from the initial ask of $1 billion, but the groups said the situation has changed in just a few days. 

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Congress "needs to assist hospitals, physician practices and other providers on the brink of financial collapse so they are able to make payroll to front line health care personnel and all employees in order to ensure that as many inpatient beds as possible are available during this pandemic," the groups wrote.

The White House is proposing a $1 trillion economic package to combat the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, $250 billion of which would be used for direct payments to Americans. They have not specified how much, if any, would go to providers for the express purpose of equipment shortages. 

The legislation signed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpFormer employees critique EPA under Trump in new report Fired State Department watchdog says Pompeo aide attempted to 'bully' him over investigations Virginia senator calls for Barr to resign over order to clear protests MORE on Wednesday provided funding for additional beds, but did not include direct funding to providers for additional equipment. 

Some hospitals are already running short on supplies of personal protection equipment like masks, face shields and gowns, as well as ventilators. 

The groups said that hospitals are losing up to $1 million a day treating COVID-19 patients, and that number may grow as the outbreak worsens. 

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"There are extraordinary efforts to supply needed equipment. Front line health care personnel are not able to go to work due to the lack of childcare and closing of schools, resulting in personnel shortages and significant expenses to backfill staff," the groups wrote. "Hospitals need help providing childcare for their staff members so they can come to work."

Providers have also called on Trump to use the powers granted in the 1950 Defense Production Act. Trump on Wednesday said he was invoking the law, which empowers the government to mobilize private industry to ramp up production in the name of national security.

However, he later said he would only use the powers in a worst case scenario in the future. If the law were invoked, providers would be able to purchase the supplies from American manufacturers.