Rural providers can apply for up to $500 million in federal grants to boost access to COVID-19 vaccines and tests, medical supplies, telehealth, and healthy food, as well as to recover lost revenue or staffing expenses due to COVID-19, President Joe Biden's administration announced Friday.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Emergency Rural Health Care Grant Program will provide at least $350 million to help rural providers recover from the pandemic and up to $125 million to create new models to improve their long-term viability. The program is part of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief law enacted in March.
"USDA is playing a critical role to help rural America build back better and equitably as the nation continues to respond to the pandemic," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release.
Three quarters of rural hospitals that are vulnerable to closure are in states that have yet to expand Medicaid, the Biden administration said in a news release.
The median profit margin among not-for-profit critical access hospitals in Medicaid expansion states increased from 2% in 2011 to 4% in 2017, compared to a decrease from 4% to 3% among their peers in non-expansion states, according to a Johns Hopkins University analysis.
Millions of U.S. residents in 12 states that haven't expanded Medicaid—and the hospitals that treat them—may see some relief. Biden and Democratic congressional leaders are considering a new policy to provide health coverage to those who would be eligible for Medicaid if their home states adopted the expansion. That proposal would be included in the $3.5 trillion legislative package Senate Democratic leaders hope to pass through the budget reconciliation, which allows bills to advance on simple majority votes without being subject to filibusters.