Children's hospitals ask HHS to release more coronavirus relief funding

Children's hospitals ask HHS to release more coronavirus relief funding
© Greg Nash

Top executives from 76 of the nation’s largest children’s hospitals signed a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday asking that he immediately release additional money from a federal fund to keep the hospitals afloat amid increased demands on the health care system due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The letter, which was organized by the Children’s Hospital Association, is requesting money from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF), which was allocated about $175 billion through two coronavirus relief packages passed by Congress in March and April.

The funds are meant to reimburse hospitals and other health care providers for additional expenses and lost revenue they incur due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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HHS has so far released two tranches of funding, but there is estimated to be about $90 billion remaining in the fund.

“Failure to provide immediate relief to children’s hospitals will weaken our infrastructure and risk our current capability to care for all the nation’s children,” the letter states.

“To sustain this critical infrastructure for our nation’s children, we ask you to release a further immediate tranche of funding that includes relief for our children’s hospitals. Our losses continue to grow and our ability to contain the damage to children’s programs decreases with every day that passes," the association said.

The children’s hospital executives said they have incurred massive expenses as part of “strategic investments in research, biocontainment units, disaster preparedness, and community health engagement” pertaining to the coronavirus.

The hospitals said they have lost money because they have been following federal and state guidelines requiring they cancel nonessential procedures and transform their facilities to prepare for an influx of sick patients and to protect their staff.

“We did this at considerable cost,” the letter states. “America’s children’s hospitals have experienced an over 40 percent decline in revenues and are currently incurring approximately $2 billion in losses per month.”

“We are grateful that the second tranche of PHSSEF reached our hospitals and still, the economic impact incurred by our institutions as a result of our response to COVID-19 continues to create catastrophic losses,” the letter continues. “The damage the crisis is creating cannot be reversed without the continued support and certainty that only the federal government can provide.”