Federal loans in the form of advance payments from Medicare kept many struggling hospitals afloat during the earlier days of the pandemic, but the loans must be repaid this month, unless hospitals get a reprieve in a stopgap funding bill moving through Congress.
Officially, full repayment of the loan is due this month, and many hospitals say they still can't afford to pay up. If they don't, federal regulators are supposed to "stop reimbursing the hospitals for Medicare patients’ treatments until the loan is repaid in full," Sarah Jane Tribble reports for Kaiser Health News.
"The program, which existed long before the pandemic, was generally used sparingly by hospitals faced with emergencies such as hurricanes or tornadoes. It was expanded for use during the coronavirus pandemic — part of billions approved in federal relief funds for health care providers this spring," Tribble reports. "A full repayment of a hospital’s loan is technically due 120 days after it was received. If it is not paid, Medicare will stop reimbursing claims until it recoups the money it is owed — a point spelled out in the program’s rules. Medicare reimburses nearly $60 billion in payments to health care providers nationwide under Medicare’s Part A program, which makes payments to hospitals.