The overall goal of the funding is to provide rural hospitals with enough COVID-19 testing supplies and to support the mitigation efforts that work best in their communities.
“These are dollars for reimbursement in the sense that you have to spend the money first before you can get the money back. They have to have expenditures that they can show in order to get those dollars so, it’s basically covering the cost of the things they have already done or will do,” said Don Williamson, with the Alabama Hospital Association.
Williamson says the rural hospitals that are eligible for the funding have to have fewer than 50 beds and be considered Critical Access Hospitals.
For a lot of rural hospitals, COVID-19 hit at the wrong time.
“Before the pandemic more than 90 percent of Alabama rural hospitals were losing money, losing money on operations, or they were losing money on total pay revenues, and we’ve had seven rural hospitals close in the last decade,” said Williamson.
Alabama Senator Bobby Singleton says the financial issues are caused by several issues.
“Some (hospitals) owe the IRS, or they owe state taxes, back taxes; it’s not bad management or anything, it’s just the matter of fact that they are just not having long-term patients in the bed. So, what we have to do is be innovative,” said Singleton.
Medicaid expansion throughout the state of Alabama , however, could be a solution to helping keep rural hospital doors open, says Singleton.
“The federal government has set the formula there for us. We are bringing $2.4 billion into the state of Alabama. It is opportunity and time for the governor to expand Medicaid. I don’t care if she calls it ‘Kay Care’- I don’t care what they call it. But we need to do that to help prevent our rural hospitals from closing down.”
Singleton also suggested that another way to help keep rural hospitals open would be to offer substance abuse and mental health services inside those facilities.