Lucas Leads Bipartisan Efforts Ensuring COVID-19 Funds for Rural Hospitals
Cheyenne, OK – Last week, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) led two letters to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar expressing concerns over recent, now revised, changes to the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) reporting requirements. After receiving feedback from the Members of Congress and other stakeholders, HHS has announced that it will amend its PRF reporting requirements- ensuring Oklahoma’s hospitals have access to COVID-19 relief funds.
“At a time when so many are still struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that our nation’s hospitals and providers have the resources and assistance they need in order to keep our communities healthy. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our hospitals have relied on distributions from HHS’ Provider Relief Fund to care for thousands of individuals and families and to help them keep their doors open during these challenging times,” said Congressman Lucas. “I am proud to have led these important letters to HHS, addressing concerns of the now revised reporting requirements for the PRF, which could adversely impact Oklahoma’s hospitals by ordering them to return this important funding created by Congress. The pandemic is far from over, and those on the frontlines day in and day out deserve stability and certainty, as they dedicate and commit their lives for the health of our communities.”
The PRF authorized under the CARES Act provides critical relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds have been used to help protect the safety of frontline doctors and nurses, ensure access to quality care, and in many cases, have helped enable providers to keep their doors open during these challenging times.
On September 19, 2020, HHS announced changes to the PRF reporting requirements that would have forced many hospitals and other providers to return some of this vital funding and jeopardize patients’ access to care while the nation continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter led by U.S. Representatives Frank Lucas (R-OK), David B. McKinley, P.E., (R-W.Va.), Mike Levin (D-CA), Roger Marshall M.D., (R-KS), Mike Thompson (D-CA), and Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), with 239 other Members of Congress, Lucas wrote that HHS’ changes on September 19 would represent “an about-face from the stipulations that HHS outlined months ago, which providers based their planning upon during an already tumultuous fiscal environment.”
Lucas also penned a letter with Oklahoma U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe, James Lankford, and the entire U.S. House delegation, writing that HHS’ requirements would “disproportionately affect rural hospitals that already operate on thin margins.”
On October 22, 2020, after receiving a consensus among Members of Congress and stakeholders, HHS amended its PRF reporting requirements providing for full applicability of PRF distributions to lost revenues.
In a statement of appreciation from the American Hospital Association to Members of Congress, American Hospital Association Executive Vice President Tom Nickels wrote, “Their work to revise the reporting requirements will help ensure that hospitals and health systems can continue to care for their patients and provide services to their communities, particularly those in rural areas and those serving vulnerable communities.”
As of October 20, 2020, Oklahoma has received $1,147,957,707 from HHS’ Provider Relief Fund.