Baker to funnel $800m to state health providers

Package includes $400m for hospitals, $80m for nursing homes

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER said the state intends to funnel $800 million to health providers across Massachusetts over the next few months to offset the losses they are incurring in dealing with COVID-19.

At a Tuesday press conference, Baker also said he continues to work with federal officials to round up more ventilators. The state recently received 100 of the 1,000 it had been promised last week, and the governor is hopeful to get more soon. He noted Washington state recently sent 400 ventilators to New York and Oregon returned 140 to the federal stockpile, suggesting supplies will be redirected to states as they need them.

“The surge is not going to happen at the same time in all 50 states,” he said.

Regarding the state aid to medical providers, Baker said $400 million will go to some 28 safety net hospitals that serve a large number of patients on Medicaid. The money will come in the form of a 20 percent rate increase for COVID-19 care and a 7.5 percent rate increase for other hospital care.

The governor said many of these hospitals have lost a significant amount of income as the state directed them to stop doing elective procedures and prepare for the pandemic. Baker noted the shift has allowed the state basically double its capacity for intensive care across the state over the last several weeks.

The rest of the money will be split between a variety of medical providers — $80 million to nursing facilities; $50 million for community health centers; $30 million for personal care attendants; and another $240 million split between ambulance providers, physicians, behavioral health providers, and adult day programs. The money will start being distributed this month and continue through July.

Baker said the $800 million comes on the heels of $290 million in immediate cash relief and $550 million in accelerated payments to providers announced in March.

“In every corner of the Commonwealth, doctors, nurses, and medical workers have been stepping up in unprecedented ways to slow the disease,” said Baker. “At the same time, the organizations that employ these folks have had their operating models totally disrupted by both COVID-19 and also many of the decisions and orders that we’ve issued to make sure that we were properly prepared for the surge.”

Marylou Sudders, the governor’s secretary of health and human services, said $50 million will be spread among all nursing homes and $30 million will go to units within nursing facilities caring for elderly COVID-19 patients.

Baker said the funding will come from reductions in MassHealth spending, enhanced federal revenue, and other budgetary maneuvers. He said a supplemental budget requiring approval of the Legislature is not necessary. “We’re basically moving money around,” he said.

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Dr. Eric Dickson, the CEO of UMass Memorial Health Care, praised the governor for providing the funding. “This aid package will help alleviate some of the pain being felt at the hospitals that care for our most vulnerable populations,” he said in a statement. “Without question the Commonwealth needs these hospitals today — that need will not go away after COVID-19 is behind us.”

In March, Dickson said that revenue for safety net hospitals might be down as much as 40 percent. UMass Memorial cares for many low-income families across central Massachusetts, and has foregone elective surgeries to comply with the state’s order.