The Senate's Democratic healthcare leaders asked HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday to make sure the remaining funds from Congress' $100 billion provider relief fund are targeted to places hardest hit by COVID-19.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Senate health committee ranking member Patty Murray of Washington, and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden of Oregon asked Azar to account for the "significant geographic variation in the severity and duration of the COVID-19" in the second round of funds disbursed from the provider relief fund created in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
The first tranche of $30 billion in provider funding was distributed by Medicare fee-for-service reimbursement, which disadvantaged providers that treat high numbers of uninsured and Medicaid patients and those in harder-hit areas of the United States. HHS has announced general principles for the next round of funding including favoring providers in coronavirus hotspots, but has not yet announced timing or a formula for the next round.
The three leaders also criticized the Trump administration's decision to use the $100 billion provider relief fund to pay for COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured at Medicare rates, which the senators argued puts states that have expanded Medicaid at a disadvantage.
"We urge you to use the $100 billion in funds for emergency relief purposes and to work with Congress on ways to cover the uninsured," Schumer, Murray and Wyden wrote.
Murray and Wyden also joined in Schumer's request for an additional $100 billion for the provider relief fund in the next COVID-19 relief package. The American Hospital Association and Federation of American Hospitals on Monday said they supported efforts to double the CARES Act's provider relief fund.