As COVID-19’s deadly reach spread from coast to coast, each night in cities from Philadelphia to LA and Houston to Apple Valley, MN, people came outside applauding or even banging pots and pans to salute our frontline health care heroes.
There were so many questions and uncertainties surrounding the growing pandemic, but there was one thing we could count on – and still can – the commitment of the caregivers at our nation’s hospitals. For the past 18 months, they have put their lives on the line every day to save others. Their dedication and innovation led to new procedures and treatments that saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
As the unprecedented threat of COVID-19 began to be fully realized, lawmakers acted quickly to help save hospitals and support frontline caregivers. COVID-19 surges and forced cancellations of non-emergent procedures put providers in financial peril threatening access to needed health care. Swift support from Congress was vital in protecting access to care for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients alike. The creation of the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) and expansion of the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Programs (MAAPP) in the historic CARES Act were lifelines to thousands of hospitals and helped keep their doors open for patients in need.
As the nation emerges from the pandemic, some have forgotten the uncertainty and desperation of those times and now second guess the way hospitals reacted.
This is becoming an unfortunate distraction from the hard work that remains to recover fully from the pandemic’s devastating impact. There are, of course, isolated anecdotes and regrettable stories that need to be examined, but in some cases the facts are being taken out of context or simply misreported. It is important to note that the PRF grants provided by Congress and distributed by the Administration to hospitals and other providers came with specific rules as to how every dollar could be used – and we welcome audits and oversight to ensure such criteria has been followed and all funds have been properly accounted for. In the case of the MAAPP, hospitals are repaying their loans consistent with the timeline established by Congress, and some have already repaid early and in full.
We need to step back and look at the totality of the health care system’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Those on the frontlines of the battle stepped up in heroic fashion for their communities and their patients. And for that, they still deserve our applause and admiration.