Alabama House passes bill to help fund hospitals, nursing homes
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A bill that would provide much-needed funding for hospitals and nursing homes in Alabama is making strides in Montgomery. House Bill 1 passed in the House and now moves to the Senate. The bill allocates the remaining $1 billion from the American Rescue Plan money.
If it clears the Senate, the bill will provide $200 million to hospitals and nursing homes. The president of the Alabama Hospital Association, Dr. Don Williamson, says it’s not enough, as hospitals are more than $1 billion in the hole as they continue to recover from the financial impact of COVID-19.
“We’ve got hospitals that are having to borrow money to make payroll. It’ll help shore up payroll,” said Williamson. “We’ve got hospitals that are behind on paying for ER coverage.”
State health leaders requested $375 million from round two of the federal ARPA dollars. Rural hospitals are already shutting down because of debt caused by unpaid patient bills, while larger hospitals are still having to borrow money to pay staff and pay bills.
“The $375 was not to make hospitals whole. It was to serve as a bridge,” said Williamson. “And that bridge was to hopefully buy hospitals time until we could address some of the fundamental underlying issues.”
The bill that passed off the House floor Tuesday afternoon only allocates $100 million for hospitals.
“We gave the hospitals some last time. We did water and sewer and broadband. I think it was just after looking at all what we thought would be the best investment in our state, that’s the route we took,” said House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter.
“Unless something’s changed, we’re going to lose hospitals in the next six months,” said Williamson.
Williamson said the best solution is closing the health care coverage gap.
“It doesn’t have to be a traditional Medicaid expansion,” said Williamson. “Other states have found hybrid ways to close that coverage gap.”
Nursing homes will also get $100 million. They will use it to protect the state’s vulnerable population.
“We’re still testing regularly. We’re still using a lot of PPE. And a lot of nursing homes have modified their buildings so they can create isolation units and care for individuals who are COVID- positive,” said John Matson with the Alabama Nursing Home Association.
State senators will have the bill in their finance and taxation general fund committee meeting for debate Wedneday.
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