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Trump administration offers plan for hospital funds to coronavirus hot spots, uninsured patients

Trump administration offers plan for hospital funds to coronavirus hot spots, uninsured patients
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Hospitals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic will receive $10 billion from the CARES Act beginning next month, the Trump administration announced Wednesday.

The money comes as lawmakers in both parties have been urging the administration to move quicker.

Hospitals in the hardest-hit states like New York and New Jersey have been frustrated that the initial round of funding went to hospitals based on their share of Medicare funding, rather than their share of coronavirus patients.

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Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said this newest wave of funding will be much more targeted, and will largely be based on the total number of admitted patients who tested positive for COVID-19.

"It will be a significant infusion of money for high impact areas," Azar said during a call with reporters.

Hospitals in those hard-hit areas have until April 23 at midnight to apply for the funding. 

Hospitals in New York, which have seen the highest number of COVID-19 cases, will receive about $4.4 billion, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Collins urges voters to turn out in Georgia runoffs Protect America's houses of worship in year-end appropriations package MORE (D-N.Y.) said.

But, while Schumer praised the amount of money going to New York, fellow New York Democrat Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyCongress set for chaotic year-end sprint Protect America's houses of worship in year-end appropriations package Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight MORE, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said hot spot hospitals were being "shortchanged."

"The Trump Administration’s decision to allocate only one-tenth of the funding for hot spot areas is outrageous," Lowey said, adding that it was a "blatant disregard for the massive costs undertaken by hospitals and health providers in the nation’s hardest-hit regions." 

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Congress set aside $100 billion in the legislation to provide direct financial assistance to hospitals and other health care providers responding to the pandemic.

HHS rushed $30 billion to providers just after the legislation passed, but much of that first wave bypassed hospitals in states on the front lines of the areas hardest hit by the coronavirus. 

Azar said the agency will begin distributing an additional $20 billion this week based on providers' overall patient revenue. Payments will go out weekly, on a rolling basis.

During the call Wednesday, Azar also outlined how providers will get reimbursed for treating uninsured patients, but declined to say how much of the funding will be dedicated for that purpose. 

Last month, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report MORE declined to open a special ObamaCare enrollment period for the uninsured during the pandemic, and instead decided that hospitals will use the CARES funding.

HHS officials on Wednesday said hospitals and doctors can submit their claims directly to the government beginning in early May "and will be reimbursed at Medicare rates, subject to available funding."

Azar indicated the uninsured funding would come out of a $30 billion pot that will also fund skilled nursing facilities, dentists, providers that only service Medicaid patients, as well as a potential second wave for hot spot providers.

HHS officials declined to give more details. 

Paying for uninsured patients could potentially be expensive, but Azar said the agency was confident it had enough money allocated.

An estimate from the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that the cost of treating uninsured coronavirus patients would be between $14 billion and $42 billion.