U.S. Senator Tina Smith Presses to Sustain Rural Hospitals and Providers Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. [03/22/2020]—U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) helped introduce the bipartisan Immediate Relief for Rural Facilities and Providers Act, which would stabilize rural hospitals and provide resources to health care providers as coronavirus (COVID-19) strains health care systems in Minnesota and across the country.

“As we all work to combat the coronavirus, I think about how important rural hospitals and providers are as public health experts in Minnesota and across the country, and I’m grateful for the care they’re providing to keep millions of people healthy. We need to provide relief to these rural hospitals and providers, and we need to do it now,” said Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee and leader of the bipartisan Senate Rural Working Group. “This legislation would make sure rural health care systems and providers have the resources they need to be ready for a surge in need. This is one example of how we can support our heroic health care providers, who are doing amazing work.”

Despite rural health care facilities providing vital services for Minnesotans and Americans, many rural providers have been forced to close or to dramatically reduce operations, damaging the health and economies of our rural communities. Last year marked the most closures of rural hospitals in history, and 2020 is on pace to double that record. With federal assistance from the Immediate Relief for Rural Facilities and Providers Act, rural hospitals and providers could keep their doors open, make payroll, and continue serving their communities.

The legislation—led by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)—is also supported by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.).

The Immediate Relief for Rural Facilities and Providers Act would: 

  • Provide immediate relief for rural hospitals with an emergency, mandatory grant to Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) and rural Prospective Payment System (PPS) hospitals;
  • Provide stabilization for rural hospitals with an emergency grant for CAH and rural PPS hospitals equaling the total reimbursement received for services for three months to stabilize the loss of revenue;
  • Encourage hospital coordination with a 20% increase in Medicare reimbursement for any patient in a rural hospital using the swing bed program to incentivize freeing up capacity in larger, overcrowded hospitals;
  • Provide stabilization and relief for providers with an emergency, one-time grant for all providers and ambulatory surgery centers equal to their total payroll from January 1 – April 1, 2019; and
  • Provide funding for physicians and providers by authorizing the Small Business Administration to provide low-interest loans to providers and ambulatory surgery centers at an interest rate that will not accrue until two years after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended.

You can access text of the bill here.