Massachusetts to pump $800 million into healthcare providers for coronavirus

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced an $800 million plan to assist healthcare providers amid the COVID-19 crisis.

This funding is in addition to the $290 million in immediate cash relief and $550 million in accelerated payments to providers announced in March, Baker said Tuesday.

Hospital groups, including Boston Medical Center, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and South Shore Health, have been imposing furloughs and pay cuts of its employees while the coronavirus has stretched them to their limits.

Massachusetts recorded 15,202 confirmed cases of the virus and 356 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon, state officials said. Those numbers reflect surges on Tuesday of 1,365 and 96, respectively.

Massachusetts will distribute the new funding through July, said Gov. Charlie Baker.

Nationally, healthcare providers are feeling the hit as well. An analysis of the projected economic impact of the coronavirus found someone hospitalized with COVID-19 costs hospitals on average $73,300 per case, according Tom Kozlik, head of municipal strategy and credit for Hilltop Securities. In addition, he said, hospitals are missing revenue from other services, such as elective surgeries.

Massachusetts will distribute the new funding through July, according to Baker.

“The Executive Office of Health and Human Services will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation,” he said.

It includes $400 million for MassHealth, the commonwealth’s Medicaid program, the majority of which will support 28 safety net and high-Medicaid hospitals, to help offset lost revenue and increased costs for hospitals at the front lines of treating patients with coronavirus.

This includes a 20% rate increase for COVID-19 care, as well as a 7.5% across-the-board rate increase for other hospital care.

More than $80 million for nursing facilities, said Baker, will include $50 million in dedicated funding for all nursing facilities across the state, while facilities and units designated COVID-19 sites of care will receive an additional $30 million.

More than $300 million will go toward other healthcare providers delivering medical care for coronavirus or providing services that keep residents in their homes and out of the hospital, including more than $50 million for community health centers; roughly $30 million for personal care attendants; funding for ambulance providers, physicians, community behavioral health providers, and home health agencies; and funding for certain long-term services and supports day programs such as Adult Day Health or Day Habilitation programs that have converted from group programs to actively serving members via alternative means.

According to Tufts University’s Center for Policy Analysis, Massachusetts could face a tax revenue shortfall of up to $3 billion over three months.

Fitch Ratings rates the commonwealth’s general obligation bonds AA-plus, while Moody's Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings assign Aa1 and AA ratings, respectively.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and the Boston Resiliency Fund Steering Committee announced the distribution of an additional $3 million in funds to support 29 nonprofits that provide essential services to front-line workers, health care providers and local families most immediately impacted by COVID-19.

The fund already distributed $5.4 million in emergency grants to eight organizations on March 25.

Walsh has called for a series of strict measures to combat the virus, including a recommended curfew of 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., except for essential workers. Walsh said he would ask police to enforce the curfew if necessary.

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