For Immediate Release:
May 4, 2020
Contact: Amy Simmons Farber
Washington, D.C. — Community Health Centers in rural areas will receive much needed federal funds as they battle COVID-19 hot spots. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is processing payments from the Provider Relief Fund to hospitals and rural providers in support of the national response to COVID-19.
The new payments are being distributed to health care facilities hard hit by the virus. A total of $10 billion will be divided among rural providers, including a modest amount for community health centers, which have suffered plummeting revenues because patients are avoiding routine primary care. At the same time, health centers have pivoted their operations, launched testing sites, and expanded telehealth to safely screen patients, particularly those confined to their homes. According to an HHS press release, providers will receive a minimum base payment plus a percent of their annual expenses. This expense-based method will reportedly ensure that nonprofit health centers, which serve 1 in 5 rural residents and operate with slim margins, can each receive a base payment of $100,000, with the median receiving $124,000 and the average receiving $162,000.
“Health centers deeply appreciate the immediate support as they battle this unprecedented crisis in medically-underserved rural communities,” said Tom Van Coverden, President & CEO of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). “Rural America needs health centers now more than ever as they launch testing sites and reach out to safely care for residents who disproportionally suffer higher rates of chronic illness. COVID-19 is not just confined to cities, the virus has also invaded vulnerable communities in Georgia, South Dakota, and Texas, where rural hospitals have closed and people have few options for primary care.”
NACHC has repeatedly pressed Congress and HHS for immediate financial relief for health centers, which serve nearly 30 million people nationwide and have paid a heavy price for addressing the pandemic. COVID-19 also struck as health centers were operating on short-term funding extensions, which created challenges in staffing and planning for service expansions. Every health center faces the potential loss of 70 percent of their federal funding unless Congress acts before November 2020. Ensuring the economic viability of health centers is critical as the numbers of unemployed and uninsured people skyrocket and the nation’s safety net prepares to confront an urgent need for affordable care now and for the longer haul.
Established in 1971, the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) serves as the national voice for America’s Health Centers and as an advocate for health care access for the medically underserved and uninsured.