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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.

Go deeper

Dec 31, 2020 - Health

WHO lists Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

A healthcare worker giving a patient a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine in Florida on Dec. 30. Photo: Marco Bello/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Thursday listed Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.

Why it matters: The approval — the WHO's first for a coronavirus vaccine — may allow some countries to expedite their own regulatory approval processes so they can import and administer the vaccine quicker, the WHO said.

Updated Jan 18, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.

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