Sep 23, 2020 - Health

Hospitals want more time to repay pandemic loans

Illustration of a saline bag solution with money as the liquid in the bag.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Hospitals are approaching the deadline to repay coronavirus relief loans from the federal government, but their finances are still suffering as the pandemic drags on, Kaiser Health News reports.

The big picture: Hospitals — especially rural hospitals that were suffering before the pandemic — are hoping Congress will grant them an extension.

  • It's not just hospitals that are worried about finances. 35% of clinicians nationwide who were surveyed said revenue and pay are still significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels and net losses threaten current and future viability, according to a new poll from Primary Care Collaborative.

The state of play: Medicare expanded its Accelerated and Advance Payment Program in April, distributing $34 billion to providers. Nationwide, 65% of small, rural hospitals accepted a loan.

  • The National Rural Health Association criticized the program in a brief, warning "most rural hospitals will have extreme difficulty or will not have the ability to repay."

What's next: After 120 days — which will come soon — hospitals are supposed to either repay their loans or see their Medicare payments garnished until they've made up their debt.

  • But Medicare hasn't started asking for the money yet, and Congress may extend the repayment deadline as part of a deal to keep the government open, KHN reports.
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