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New York hospitals feel shortchanged on federal aid

New York is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the US.

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Tami Luhby
CNN — New York is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the US.

But while the state's hospitals were overflowing with coronavirus patients, they didn't get special priority in an initial round of federal funding to help health care facilities combat the outbreak, sparking complaints from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state lawmakers and hospital officials.

The Trump administration last week began distributing a $100 billion fund set up by Congress to compensate hospitals for higher expenses and lost revenue battling the virus. However, the first $30 billion was doled out based on prior Medicare reimbursements, not the share of coronavirus patients -- which means New York and other hard-hit areas didn't get an extra boost when they needed it most.

New York hospitals' allotment is estimated at about $970 million, according to Ken Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association. It should have been "at least six times that amount," said Raske. He complained to the White House, but received no promises for future funding.

"New York hospitals have turned themselves upside down and inside out to battle Covid-19," said Raske, noting that each of the five major New York City metro area hospital systems are spending up to $450 million a month to treat coronavirus patients. "We're losing our shirts."

Cuomo also lashed out earlier this week, pointing to a Kaiser Health News analysis that found New York would receive only $12,000 per case, while Minnesota, Nebraska and Montana, which have not been as affected, are each getting more than $300,000 per case.

"How can that be?," said Cuomo, who has also complained about the share of federal aid the state government will receive from Congress' $2 trillion relief package.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, along with Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Ron Wyden of Oregon, wrote a letter this week to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar urging him to distribute the remaining funds to areas hardest hit by the coronavirus.

That followed a letter last week from a bipartisan group of New York representatives to Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma asking them to reconsider their decision to allocate the initial $30 billion based on Medicare billing.

The formula allowed the agency to get the money out the door quickly, Verma said Wednesday. She promised the next tranche would go both to providers like those in New York that have significantly higher expenditures and to those who've lost revenue because elective surgeries and other visits have been curtailed.

"There will be a specific portion of funds for providers in hotspots," said Verma, who declined to provide more details.

The next allotment of money should go by the end of this week, she said.

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