The federal government may receive additional funding to respond to COVID-19, but for now, none of it will be for health care providers, a senior senator said Tuesday.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said his agency could soon request an additional $30 billion, according to Sen. Roy Blunt (MO), a senior Republican on the HHS subcommittee on appropriations.
Instead of looking for more help for providers struggling during the pandemic, Blunt said HHS is focusing on other priorities like testing, treatments and vaccines. According to him, the ministry will allocate new money for the following areas:
- $18 billion to buy oral antivirals, monoclonal antibodies and vaccines.
- $5 billion for capacity testing and home test development
- $3 billion for an HHS fund that reimburses service providers treating uninsured COVID-19 patients that is expected to dry up as early as this spring.
- $4 billion to develop vaccines against future variants of the novel coronavirus
- $500 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support outbreak surveillance and other operations.
The American Hospital Association and other provider groups are lobbying to replenish the Provider Relief Fund, but so far without success. According to HHS, $178 billion of the program has either been spent or set aside for pending distribution.
The AHA has asked Congress for another $25 billion, citing financial pressure on hospitals associated with the omicron and delta options, as well as increased labor costs. This request does not appear to have been granted on Capitol Hill as the omicron option is fading away. According to the agency, the number of hospitalizations has decreased by about 38% compared to two weeks earlier. CDC.
HHS has not made a formal request for $30 billion, but additional pandemic funding could be included in a spending bill Congress must pass next month to prevent a government shutdown.
“HHS leaders regularly interact with Congress about COVID resources, and in a conversation with congressional staff on Tuesday, HHS discussed the status of COVID response funds, as well as the need for more resources to support providing more life-saving treatments and vaccines, maintaining testing capacity. and investing in the research and development of the next generation of vaccines,” the agency’s spokesman said in a statement.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki turned to pandemic resources during a press conference on Tuesday. “We still have enough funds to respond to the current surge in omicrons,” she said. “In the coming weeks, our goal has always been to make sure we are well prepared to stay ahead of the virus.”