Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) led a bipartisan group of senators in urging Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to provide additional funding for children’s hospitals impacted by COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic, many children’s hospitals have been forced to halt critical elective procedures.
“Many children’s hospitals have had to resort to furloughs and lay-offs at a time when they are also preparing for possible increases in COVID-19 patients or more complex cases as a result of deferred care,” wrote the senators. “Unlike adults, deferred care in children is not ‘elective’. Deferred care for a child can include orthopedic surgery to straighten a spine or a major cardiac procedure.”
The letter is also signed by Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), David Purdue (R-Ga.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Hawaii), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).
Here is the letter:
To: Secretary Azar
We write to thank you for your efforts to distribute funding from the Provider Relief Fund to the facilities caring for individuals infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). However, we are very concerned that a disproportionately low amount of this funding has been distributed to children’s hospitals. We respectfully request that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) move to quickly provide additional funding for children’s hospitals. While, thankfully, COVID-19 has not affected nearly the number of children as adults, there are reasons to consider this additional funding.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals – including children’s hospitals – were required to halt elective procedures. Unlike adults, deferred care in children is not “elective”. Deferred care for a child can include orthopedic surgery to straighten a spine or a major cardiac procedure. Caring for children is not the same as adults, making children’s hospitals unique institutions. Care for children requires highly specialized expert knowledge about health and disease at all stages of child development. Further, children’s hospitals provide these services to a large Medicaid population – more than half of children’s hospital patients are covered by the program.
Although the novel coronavirus has not had as widespread an impact on the pediatric population, we have seen serious pediatric COVID-19-related conditions. For example, we are beginning to learn more about multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children MIS-C, a condition that is believed to be a complication of COVID-19. While MIS-C is rare, its effects on children are severe. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a study which hopefully will answer many questions about this virus in children.
Despite differences in children and adults, children’s hospitals have been impacted financially with significant loss of revenue. Many children’s hospitals have had to resort to furloughs and lay-offs at a time when they are also preparing for possible increases in COVID-19 patients or more complex cases as a result of deferred care. Social distancing protocols have decreased face-to-face outpatient visits and resulted in deferred surgeries which has significantly impacted hospital revenues. Our children’s hospitals have responded by providing remote care wherever possible at a significant loss. They have worked tirelessly to make sure children are getting the care they need. While doing this, children’s hospitals have had to increase expenditures in anticipation of a possible surge in novel coronavirus patients, including investments in personal protective equipment to keep patients and staff safe.
In summation, we want to thank you for your leadership during this trying time and to respectfully request that you include additional funding for children’s hospitals.
Thank you for your attention to this issue.