Alabama Hospital Association says ARPA bill allocation not enough to keep some hospitals afloat

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) – Alabama hospitals are only getting a portion of what they asked for in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act bill that state lawmakers approved on Thursday.

The legislation allocates $1.06 billion in federal COVID relief dollars to the state.

The Alabama Hospital Association requested $375 million on that bill. Lawmakers included $100 million for hospitals.

“Again, we are grateful for the $100 million, we just needed $300 (million), $375 million,” said Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Don Williamson.

Williamson said low Medicare reimbursement rates, coupled with a high rate of uninsured patients, have left hospitals in the red. According to an AHA-funded study, from 2019 to 2022, state hospitals lost $1.5 billion, even when taking into account federal funding.

Williamson said his original request would have only bought time, not solved a problem.

“Unless something changes, unless we’re able to expand Medicaid, unless we’re able to close that coverage gap, we’re going to see fewer hospitals in Alabama over the next 18 next few months than there are today,” Williamson said.

Williamson said the money will be distributed fairly based on the size of the hospital and the services provided during COVID-19. For some, he says, that won’t be enough.

“The result is that for some of the hospitals that have to borrow money to pay payroll, that are way behind in paying their medical providers or drug bills at pharmacies, all the money they get will be immediately used to deal with some of these financial problems. problems,” Williamson said.

While hospitals will get $100 million, the bulk of the bill goes to broadband and water and sewer projects at $660 million.

Lawmakers have said addressing infrastructure needs is a priority.

“If you look at everything, that’s where everyone thought it should be,” House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) said. “Everyone was okay with that.”

Ledbetter said he expects lawmakers to introduce legislation in the regular session to address health care needs unmet by the ARPA bill.

Although the focus has been on rural health care, Williamson said hospital closings are a statewide problem. He said if rural hospitals close, those uninsured patients will eventually end up in urban hospitals, compounding the problem.


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