North Texas Hospitals Start Receiving Millions From Federal Government To Offset COVID Costs


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Federal dollars begin to flow to hospitals and doctor’s offices in Dallas-Fort Worth after government started unlocking $ 30 billion of the giant relief package passed by Congress last month.

Baylor Scott & White Health, whose business extends from Sherman to San Marcos, has already received $ 100 million with more to come, the Dallas-based company said.

Texas Health Resources in Arlington said it would get around $ 50 million. UT Southwestern in Dallas, the region’s leading academic medical center, will receive approximately $ 25 million.

Parkland Health & Hospital System, which cares for many uninsured in Dallas and the wider region, said it would get $ 12.4 million.

The payments are just the start of the federal coronavirus bailout – an additional $ 70 billion will come later from this particular source – and local hospitals are in dire need of the IV.

“These relief funds are only a fraction of the total losses from COVID-19 that we are suffering,” Baylor spokeswoman Julie Smith wrote in an email.

In total, more than 24,000 state suppliers are expected to share $ 2.09 billion. Only California and Florida have higher total payouts than Texas, and the rewards are particularly attractive.

Unlike cash advances and tax exemptions in the relief bill, these rewards do not have to be repaid. And unlike the repayable small business loans that led to a bank rush, money isn’t first come, first served.

Suppliers “will get those dollars, so even if it takes a few days there shouldn’t be any panic,” Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said last week. “Our priority was to get those dollars out as quickly as possible. “

Funding voted by Congress was generally intended for expenses related to COVID-19 testing and treatment or to cover lost income resulting from the crisis. But recipients are not limited in their options.

“There are no conditions”, Verma said during a White House briefing April 7. “So the health care providers who get those dollars can basically spend [them] however they see fit.

In addition to helping offset losses, Baylor will use some of the money to prepare for a potential increase in the number of COVID-19 patients. Texas Health said the funds would help offset the high costs of providing care during the crisis, including resupplying personal protective equipment and other essential supplies.

At UT Southwestern, some federal money will be used to boost COVID-19 testing capacity, which also requires additional equipment. Parkland said it would use funds to cover the cost of paid time off for healthcare workers who have to be absent due to exposure to the virus.

Doctors examine a CT scan of the lungs at a hospital in Xiaogan, China.

All four hospital systems highlighted the financial impact of the suspension of elective surgeries and procedures. This work represents a large part of the incomes and profits of health providers, and it was stopped during the crisis to help preserve equipment, bed space and staff.

“Patient incomes have declined dramatically,” wrote Katherine Yoder, Parkland’s vice president of government relations, in an email.

Texas Health spokesperson Steve O’Brien cited another financial constraint: COVID-19 patients “often need intensive care to survive.”

Federal money doesn’t just go to big hospitals. Dr Morris Gottlieb, a surgeon whose work has been largely suspended due to coronavirus restrictions, received about $ 2,500 deposited directly into his office account.

“It just appeared – I had no idea it was going to happen,” said Gottlieb, who directs North Dallas Ear, nose and throat to Richardson. “I am totally grateful. Right now, every penny counts.

Much more help is coming, although it’s unclear how future dollars will be allocated and whether independent doctors like Gottlieb will get another boost.

At the end of last week, the government said it wanted to make an “immediate injection of $ 30 billion into the health care system”, according to the hhs.gov website. The money was shared with all Medicare providers, based on their share of Medicare 2019 fee-for-service billing.

Of course, it is the large hospital systems that will benefit the most because they generate so much Medicare activity. But not all hospitals face the same COVID-19 requirements.

In New York City, now considered the epicenter of the virus, hospital executives complained that the distribution of money by old Medicare bills was “”woefully insufficient to meet the financial challenges facing hospitals right now, especially those located in “hot spot” areas.

Last week, Verma acknowledged that the methodology bypassed some providers, especially pediatricians, gynecologists, children’s hospitals and nursing homes. She said they would be addressed in the second round of funding, “and we will be a priority for these organizations and these types of health care providers.”

Rural hospitals are also hoping for special attention. Revenues are down sharply due to the suspension of elective surgeries and their smaller facilities are more financially vulnerable.

Many don’t have enough money to cover extended days of operating costs, said Don mcbeath, advocacy director for the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals. The group has 157 rural hospitals, ranging from those with two licensed beds to around 200.

A typical rural Texas hospital expects to get $ 300,000 to $ 400,000 from the first phase of the federal program, he said. That’s enough to cover maybe two weeks of payroll, and that’s how they plan to use the money.

“A lot of people have serious problems,” McBeath said. “I’ll be stunned if a few of these hospitals don’t close within the next 90 days. “

The group is counting on an improved payment system for the next round. McBeath said he didn’t want to complain because any help is welcome now, and faster is better than slower. But he hopes the federal government will concentrate the money where it is needed most.

“Large hospitals have more resources to handle these situations,” he said.

Many rural hospitals wanted to apply for small business loans aimed at protecting the payroll. They are open to businesses with no more than 500 workers, and if they keep employees, loans can be canceled.

But government entities are not eligible, he said, and rural hospitals typically belong to hospital districts, towns and counties.

“We are also working to find a solution to this problem,” said McBeath.

A brightly colored Volkswagen bus drives past small, closed businesses near Lovers Lane and the Dallas North Tollway.  When retail stores reopen, a government loan program would make it much easier for them to retain employees.

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