Bipartisan lawmakers press Trump administration to get COVID-19 aid to Medicaid providers

Bipartisan lawmakers press Trump administration to get COVID-19 aid to Medicaid providers
© Bonnie Cash

Bipartisan members of Congress on Tuesday urged the Trump administration to distribute emergency COVID-19 funding to Medicaid providers as soon as possible, noting their “serious concerns” with the delay. 

While Congress appropriated funding more than two months ago to help health care providers weather the COVID-19 crisis, little of that assistance has gone to those who serve low-income patients, children, and people with disabilities. 

The delay “could result in long-term financial hardship for providers who service some of our most vulnerable populations,” according to a letter from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump administration to impose tariffs on French products in response to digital tax Big Ten moves to conference-only model for all fall sports Republicans considering an outdoor stadium for Florida convention: report MORE (R-Iowa), the committee’s top Democrat Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTrump administration to impose tariffs on French products in response to digital tax Mnuchin: Next stimulus bill must cap jobless benefits at 100 percent of previous income Congress must act now to fix a Social Security COVID-19 glitch and expand, not cut, benefits MORE (Ore.), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), and Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenRepublicans are working to close the digital divide Fauci gives Congress COVID-19 warning Fauci: We need more testing, not less MORE (Ore.), that panel’s top Republican.

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“Many of these providers are safety net providers that operate on thin profit margins, if at all. The COVID-19 pandemic has strained their already scarce resources, threatening their ability to keep their doors open in the midst of a declared public health emergency," they wrote.

The Trump administration has distributed about $70 billion in funding to help health providers through COVID-19, but most of that money has gone to providers in the Medicare program, the federal health insurance program for the elderly.

The problem largely lies in the complicated structure of the safety net program. It is easier for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to quickly send out funding to Medicare providers because it is a federally funded program. Medicaid programs are managed by states and providers are paid directly by state governments.

HHS has for weeks been trying to figure out a way to get funding to Medicaid providers. 

But the lawmakers on Tuesday said the delay is becoming a concern, and the Trump administration waited too long to request Medicaid information from states.

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Some providers have had to cut staff and services or close down altogether as they deal with the financial crisis brought by COVID-19.

The lawmakers asked HHS to release a timeline for when it will send funds to Medicaid providers and how much it will distribute. 

“We understand that there may be federal data limitations in Medicaid that do not exist in Medicare,” the lawmakers wrote. 

“Medicaid-dependent providers serve some of the frailest and most vulnerable Americans. We must not let their financial insolvency due to the COVID-19 pandemic threaten access to essential care for these individuals," they said.