12.12.21

WITH THE NEW OMICRON VARIANT ON THE RISE AND COVID CASES OVERWHELMING WESTERN NY HOSPITALS, SCHUMER STANDS AT THE WYOMING COUNTY COMMUNITY HOSPITAL TO LAUNCH TWO-PRONGED PLAN TO HELP STRUGGLING UPSTATE HOSPITALS GET THE FED FUNDING BOOST THEY NEED NOW

With Wyoming’s State Of Emergency In Full Effect, Schumer Calls On Feds To Reevaluate WNY Growing COVID Crisis BEFORE Sending Next Tranche Out – Ensuring WNY Gets A Fair Shot & $$$ Gets Where It’s Most Needed 

Although Schumer Secured +$200B In Hospital Pandemic Relief, Feds Currently Using Old Data When Deciding Where To Send New $$ Tranche, Potentially Overlooking WNY’s Growing Need As Hospitals Fill And Health Care Providers As A Part Of The American Rescue Plan; But With Variants Like Omicron and Delta On The Rise Upstate NY Hospitals Are Struggling To Keep Up

Schumer To Feds: Get Money Where It’s Needed Most – Like WNY—NOW

With Western New York hospitals overwhelmed by surging COVID cases and counties facing new States of Emergencies, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today stood at the Wyoming County Community Hospital to launch a new a two-pronged push to get hospitals the help they need as they enter the heart of the harsh winter months. Last week a state of emergency was declared in Wyoming County in an effort to fight back against a rise in COVID-19 cases, which mirrors similar rises happening throughout Upstate New York. Schumer said that this recent surge requires immediate action to slow the spread and keep our communities safe.

Specifically, Schumer is calling for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to start to take into account the recent surges and new serious developments in COVID which have greatly impacted Upstate communities like Wyoming County when determining the next round of the American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) pandemic Provider Relief Fund (PRF) payment calculations. Schumer explained that HHS has not yet released the formula for how the next round (Phase 4) of  Provider Relief Fund (PRF) payments will be calculated, but that currently it is marked as “General Distribution” meaning they won’t be taking into account COVID prevalence, but rather only weeks old data financial information that captures revenues lost and additional expenses due to COVID-19 from prior months. In addition, providers already had to submit their revenue and loss data for this grant round over a month ago, meaning it will likely not account for the reality facing many Western New York hospitals given the recent surge.

“Western New York hospitals are on the frontlines battling the many variants of COVID and many, like the Wyoming County Community Hospital, are struggling to keep up with the surge. During this time of crisis, it’s imperative that the feds do all they can to help those on the ground and right now, I’m asking them to step up and do more,” said Senator Schumer. “I am calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to immediately and fully take into account the impact of rising COVID cases on our Upstate New York hospitals. Second, I’m calling on HHS to immediately get this money OUT the door to ensure WNY hospitals have all the support they need as they continue to keep our communities safe on the frontlines.”

Schumer explained that he is also urging that HHS get the payments for these struggling hospitals, which has already been appropriated as a part of the American Rescue Plan, out the door ASAP to help cover the rising costs from the surge in cases. Schumer said getting Upstate healthcare providers the help they need as soon as possible is integral to combatting the spread of COVID-19.

As of December 10th, among all 62 New York counties, Wyoming County and Orleans County were tied with the highest daily average number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 at 103.  The next highest county is Genesee at 100 and right now WNY and the Finger Lakes have the highest rates in the state. 

Schumer urged HHS to specifically take into account the loss of elective surgery revenue at Wyoming Community Hospital and 31 other upstate hospitals that had to suspect elective surgeries starting this week because a spike in COVID-19 hospital admissions has reduced their available bed capacity to 10% or less.  Schumer said HHS should prioritize funding awards for hospitals like these 32 which now have the greatest need.  These 32 hospitals include several in Western New York including Erie County Medical Center, Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, Mount St Marys Hospital and Health Center, Sisters of Charity Hospital and several in the Finger Lakes including Strong Memorial Hospital, Rochester General Hospital, F.F. Thompson, and Highland Hospital.   Schumer said these hospitals are especially challenged having to now care for a large number of COVID-19 admissions while not being able to offset the additional expenses with one of their most important sources of revenue, elective surgery.   

Joseph McTernan, CEO of the Wyoming County Community Health System said, “With COVID infection rates again spiking in our community, we need all hands on deck to both care for the increasing number of patients being admitted for care while addressing the burden of increased costs required to provide this care.  These challenges have only compounded since WCCH is now one of the 32 New York hospitals with fewer than 10 percent bed capacity requiring us to suspend elective surgeries.  Through the federal COVID relief bills championed by Senator Schumer WCCH has already received over $6 million in federal aid that has helped sustain us so far.  And now that he pandemic is worsening again, we appreciate Senator Schumer’s push to help significantly impacted hospitals like WCCH now access additional federal relief funding.”

Wyoming County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Rebecca Ryan said, “As one of only two county owned hospitals in New York, Wyoming County Community Hospital is once again rising to meet our community’s health-care needs as COVID-19 infection rates increase.  As hospital admissions rise and expenses mount, mobilizing to combat the COVID outbreak will require help from all levels of government.  I thank Senator Schumer for securing over $6 million in pandemic aid for our hospital and to once again push for additional federal aid to help support our community through this latest surge.”

Schumer’s push for additional funds today follows his efforts to secure significant funding over the past 21 months that has helped sustain hospitals through the pandemic period.  Specifically, Senator Schumer has delivered over $13.5 billion in grant funding to NY hospitals and providers through the Provider Relief Fund alone with billions more still awaiting to be disbursed. In addition, the Senator has secured tens of billions of dollars in much-needed relief including through various legislation and programs that delivered low-cost loans to providers, staved off potentially disastrous federal cuts to Medicare payments and  increased payments to the New York Medicaid program that have helped NYS from instituting drastic cuts in provider reimbursements and consumer benefits. 

In the April 2020 CARES Act, Schumer led the charge in Congress to create the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) - managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) - with to provide funding to healthcare providers and hospitals caring for patients with COVID-19 and who suffered high expenses and lost revenues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Although initially funded at $100 billion, Schumer led the charge in Congress further to successfully add an additional $86.5 billion to the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) throughout the last year through the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enactment Act, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 and the American Rescue Plan.  As of December 10th, 2021, HHS has awarded over $130 billion in funding from the PRF through distinct 11 distributions.  Currently HHS will be awarding another $17 billion in a 12th tranche (Phase 4) to providers based on applications submitted by hospitals a month ago.   Since these applications were submitted before the current surge in COVID-19 rates across WNY and Upstate, today Schumer announced his push for HHS to prioritize funding awards for hospitals like WCCH and the 31 other Upstate hospitals that now have the greatest need when HHS selects the recipients for this upcoming $17 billion tranche. 

Below are the 32 NY hospitals now impacted by the elective surgery suspension have received the following totals of Provider Relief Funds since the start of the pandemic:

Hospital

Hospital Network

Region

County

PRF Funds

A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital

Bassett Healthcare Network

Mohawk Valley

Otsego

$6,998,802

Albany Medical Center Hospital

Albany Medical Center

Capital Region

Albany

$43,210,212

Brooks-TLC Hospital System, Inc.

Independent

Western New York

Chautauqua

$10,468,315

Canton-Potsdam Hospital

St. Lawrence Health System

North Country

St. Lawrence

$11,494,518

Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center

North Star Health Alliance

North Country

St. Lawrence

$9,437,814

Crouse Hospital

Crouse Health

Central New York

Onondaga

$8,364,463

Erie County Medical Center

Independent

Western New York

Erie

$62,807,257

F.F. Thompson Hospital

University of Rochester Medical Center

Finger Lakes

Ontario

$5,253,336

Faxton-St Lukes Healthcare St Lukes Division

Mohawk Valley Health System

Mohawk Valley

Oneida

 $23,268,616

Geneva General Hospital

Finger Lakes Health

Finger Lakes

Ontario

$7,711,340

Glens Falls Hospital

Independent

Capital Region

Warren

$23,233,254

Guthrie Cortland Medical Center

The Guthrie Clinic

Central New York

Cortland

$12,235,223

Highland Hospital

University of Rochester Medical Center

Finger Lakes

Monroe

$23,881,664

Little Falls Hospital

Bassett Healthcare Network

Mohawk Valley

Herkimer

$4,426,084

Mercy Hospital of Buffalo

Catholic Health, Buffalo

Western New York

Erie

$20,795,425

Mount St Marys Hospital and Health Center

Catholic Health, Buffalo

Western New York

Niagara

$16,116,344

Oneida Health Hospital

Independent

Central New York

Madison

$7,802,776

Oswego Hospital

Independent

Central New York

Oswego

$7,641,08

Rochester General Hospital

Rochester Regional Health System

Finger Lakes

Monroe

$83,609,096

Saratoga Hospital

Albany Medical Center

Capital Region

Saratoga

$7,047,728

Sisters of Charity Hospital

Catholic Health, Buffalo

Western New York

Erie

$44,348,366

St Elizabeth Medical Center

Mohawk Valley Health System

Mohawk Valley

Oneida

$5,217,252

St. Mary's Healthcare

Ascension Health

Mohawk Valley

Montgomery

$22,590,810

Strong Memorial Hospital

University of Rochester Medical Center

Finger Lakes

Monroe

 $183,389,341

The Unity Hospital of Rochester

Rochester Regional Health System

Finger Lakes

Monroe

$34,217,239

The University of Vermont Health Network - Alice Hyde Medical Center

University of Vermont Health Network

North Country

Franklin

$12,387,076

The University of Vermont Health Network - Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital

University of Vermont Health Network

North Country

Clinton

$31,522,873

The University of Vermont Health Network - Elizabethtown Community Hospital

The University of Vermont Health Network

North Country

Essex

$4,620,145

University Hospital SUNY Health Science Center

Independent

Central New York

Onondaga

$120,423,933

UPMC Chautauqua at WCA

UPMC

Western New York

Chautauqua

$17,618,300

UPSTATE University Hospital at Community General

Independent

Central New York

Onondaga

 $126,193,988

Wyoming County Community Hospital

Independent

Finger Lakes

Wyoming

$6,256,951

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Below is a copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to HHS:

Dear Secretary Becerra,

I write to request that the Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) take into consideration the uptick in COVID-19 cases in certain areas of the country such as Western New York and the Finger Lakes Region when calculating the payments to providers that will be made in the upcoming General Distribution from the Provider Relief Fund (PRF). Hospitals and providers in this area, such as Wyoming County Community Hospital, are working day and night to care for patients amid intense financial pressures and need this funding in order to deal with the increase in COVID-19 cases that are crowding their hospital beds. I also ask that these funds be made swiftly; New York providers – especially those in Upstate New York – cannot be made to wait for this direly needed relief.

As you well know, New York has suffered huge losses during the course of this pandemic. While a robust vaccination and testing program has kept the state from reliving the worst of the pandemic’s early days, parts of the state continue to experience high levels of coronavirus caseloads. As of December 10th, 2021, the three counties in New York with the highest daily average number COVID-19 cases per 100,000 are all found in Western New York: Orleans (103), Wyoming (103), Genesee (100). The caseloads in these counties and other areas of New York have increased to such a high level, that 32 hospitals across the state report having 10% or less of available bed capacity open to admit new patients. Due to these critical conditions, New York State has mandated that these hospitals suspend elective procedures until bed capacity improves. The combination of high costs associated with treating COVID-19 patients and the loss of high-revenue-producing elective procedures is damaging the financial health of hospitals such as Wyoming County Community Hospital and highlighted the need for more federal support through programs like the Provider Relief Fund.

In the April 2020 CARES Act, Congress created the PRF with an initial $100 billion in support for providers caring for patients with COVID-19 and who suffered high expenses and lost revenues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Congress further supplemented the fund with an additional $86.5 billion over the next year through the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enactment Act, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 and the American Rescue Plan.

As of December 10th, 2021, your Department has sent out over $130 billion in funding from the PRF across three phases of General Distributions and eight targeted allocations, the most recent being the $8.5 billion in American Rescue Plan’s Rural payments. These General Distributions were made using various formulas based on revenues and losses reported in past years’ Medicare and Medicaid cost reporting, tax filings and other financial information. The targeted allocations were based on a wider variety of factors including in some cases the level of COVID-19 admissions at a hospital provider.

In September 2021, HHS announced that up to $17 billion would be made available in a new PRF General Distribution and solicited applications from providers across the country for this funding. The information collected in these applications to develop the formula that will calculate these General Distribution payments once again only considered past tax filings, cost reporting data and other financial information. It does not consider the rising levels of COVID-19 in hard-hit areas such as Upstate New York.

In light of the ongoing increase in COVID-19 cases, I ask that your Department refer to its past practices at the height of the pandemic and incorporate data into the General Distribution formula that captures the enormous burdens placed on providers who are treating patients and saving lives in areas with high rates of COVID-19 cases. I also call on the Department to make these determinations swiftly and distribute the funds as soon as possible. Providers like Wyoming County Community Hospital need these funds now, and communities like those in Western New York cannot afford to wait any longer.

I thank you and your Department for your excellent service during this crisis.

Sincerely,

 

 

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