MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided much-needed funding to hospitals and healthcare systems across the country. But, for many safety net hospitals, like those in the WVU Health System, the funding fell short of covering the financial hardship they endured.

That’s where U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and 15 other senators from across the country came in.

They successfully petitioned the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for additional funding for safety net hospitals.

Safety net hospitals are those that care for a disproportionate number of uninsured, Medicare, Medicaid and other vulnerable patients, regardless of their ability to pay. The pandemic resulted in a significant financial strain on safety net hospitals, especially in West Virginia, where many of the state’s residents fall into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s classification of groups at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness as a result of advanced age and/or underlying medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and chronic kidney and lung disease.

In a letter to Alex Azar, DHHS secretary, and Seema Verma, CMS administrator, Capito and her fellow senators wrote, “On a pre-pandemic basis, these providers face high uncompensated care costs and bring in significantly lower revenue than other hospitals. COVID-19 has severely exacerbated these disparities. We are concerned about the future financially viability of our hospitals that help care for the sickest, lowest-income, and costliest patients. These hospitals stand at the frontlines of our healthcare system for many of our disadvantaged communities and operate on razor-thin margins under the best of circumstances.”

As a result of their efforts, the WVU Health System received a significant amount of additional funding.

“Many of our hospitals are the sole providers of healthcare for their respective communities and were the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. To lose those hospitals would put the health of those communities in dire straits and force them to travel, in some cases, great distances to receive the care they need,” Albert L. Wright, Jr., president and CEO of the WVU Health System, said. “With this additional funding, we can ensure that our hospitals remain open and our state’s residents have access to high quality healthcare when they need it. We extend our utmost appreciation to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito for her efforts on our behalf and on behalf of all West Virginians.”

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