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As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread to more communities, hundreds of rural hospitals, health clinics, and small physician practices are on the verge of closure.
Secretary Alex Azar of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced a $10B rural relief fund for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This funding will offer critical immediate assistance to rural hospitals and health clinics that have been struggling during the pandemic, according to the National Rural Health Association (NRHA).
“The $10B rural carve-out was an important development in stabilizing the operations of rural hospitals,” said Brock Slabach, MPH, FACHE, Senior vice president for member services for the NRHA in an email to Contemporary Clinic®. “Since the Public Health Emergency was declared in mid-March, we’ve seen significant surges of COVID-19 related disease as well as precipitous declines volume due to cancellation of elective procedures. These conditions have caused tremendous financial harm to rural hospitals and their ability to sustain their operations.”
The relief money will be distributed on the basis of operating expenses, using a methodology that allocates payments proportionately to each facility and clinic. This method distinguishes the unfortunate financial position of many rural hospitals, with many that are considered unprofitable, according to the NRHA press release.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread to more communities, hundreds of rural hospitals, health clinics, and small physician practices are on the verge of closure, according to the NRHA. In a press release, the organization said that the loss of revenue, due to the inability to provide nonemergency care, is destabilizing core primary health care services in rural America.
"Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, rural providers were already financially fragile, with nearly half of all rural hospitals operating at a financial loss," said the the NRHA statement. "Now, rural providers face catastrophic cash shortages and are forced to cut staff and services and potentially prepare for closure. Rural America cannot combat this virus nor recover from economic devastation without a vibrant health sector. That is why this funding is essential."
$10B rural COVID-19 relief secured by NRHA. NRHA [email]. Sent April 22, 2020. Accessed April 24, 2020.