WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) late Friday led a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services strongly encouraging the agency to quickly provide relief to rural healthcare providers increasingly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The letter, signed by 49 members of Congress, including U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Representatives Trent Kelly (R-Miss.) and Michael Guest (R-Miss.), seeks a dedicated 20 percent Provider Relief Fund set aside for rural America.
Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) of the Second Congressional District that includes the Mississippi Delta did not sign.
“Rural healthcare was already in crisis prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the situation is only getting worse. Last year rural hospitals closures hit a record high, and 2020 is on pace to be even higher. So far this year twelve rural hospitals have closed, with hundreds more on the brink. Given both the cancellation of elective procedures because of the pandemic and the recent spread of COVID-19 in rural America, rural providers have a desperate and immediate need for more funding. Therefore, we request you make this funding available quickly to provide relief to struggling rural health care providers,” the lawmakers wrote to HHS officials.
The rise in cases across rural America represents a growing concern considering that the 60 million Americans living in rural areas generally have more health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.
In all, 49 Senators and Members of the House signed the letter calling on future allocations from the Provider Relief Fund to meet the following metrics:
• Priority should be granted to facilities that have been significantly affected by COVID-19 preparation
• Priority should be granted for facilities that provide care for a disproportionally high percentage of Medicare and Medicaid patients
• Priority should be granted for facilities that provide care for populations with above average senior populations or that are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.