The Star-Herald

Collins is working for rural hospitals

To the editor:

Rural hospitals in Maine have faced extraordinary financial pressures throughout the pandemic. Congress acted swiftly at the start of the pandemic to offer support, but some of the terms of the loans and emergency funding it has extended to hospitals must be updated if they are going to weather this storm.

Specifically, loans provided through the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Programs (MAAPP) are subject to strict repayment terms—including a 120-day timeframe to begin repayment and 12-month deadline to complete it before an extraordinarily high approximately 10 percent interest rate kicks in. Hospitals are still in the midst of fighting the pandemic. Expecting them to meet these requirements while serving our communities and maintaining financial solvency is unreasonable.

In addition, current MAAPP terms dictate that once hospitals begin repayment, they will lose their Medicare fee-for-service payments until they have paid off their loans in full. Losing these payments is equivalent to cutting an average of approximately 25 percent of a hospital’s total payments. This would be devastating for struggling rural hospitals that tend to treat a larger share of Medicare recipients.

On top of that, many hospitals and physicians received federal emergency relief grants through the Provider Relief Fund (PRF). Unfortunately, these funds are subject to taxation at 21 percent or more for tax-paying hospitals and physicians, negating the whole purpose of providing them in the first place.

As one of the authors of the Paycheck Protection Program, Sen.Susan Collins knows how important loan programs are for rural America. I’m thankful that once again Sen. Collins is working across the aisle to address this issue. Hopefully our hospitals will feel relief soon because of the swift work of Sen. Collins.

 

Rep. Dustin White

Washburn

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