Senate Republican Weekly Radio Address by Sen. Kimberley Rosen
Like many other hospitals, these facilities have suffered steep revenue shortfalls because the state and federal governments prohibited them from performing elective medical services during the pandemic or the public refrained from these. These services are a large part of any hospital’s revenue stream.
When mandates from government harm an organization, especially one as important as a hospital, it is that same government’s responsibility to help correct the problem as soon as it is able.
While dutifully carrying out their critical role in the health of their communities, especially during a worldwide viral outbreak, these hospitals suffered financially due to government-imposed restrictions. It is now time for government to remedy the wrong that has been done as a result.
This brings us to Augusta, where state government is sitting on $1.25 billion in funding from the federal government for “COVID-19 related expenses.” Surely, there is justification for using some of these funds to keep small hospitals like these solvent and serving a vital role in their communities.
At Calais Regional, for example, two-thirds of their patients are covered by government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, making it easy to justify the use of the CARES Act funds to reimburse them. As the largest employer in Calais and the second largest in Washington County, there is ample economic justification. PVH is the second largest employer in Lincoln.
Almost every expense that a hospital incurs for any reason has increased significantly due to COVID-19. Sometimes the increase is as much as double the cost. Whether a patient enters the hospital with COVID-19 or something as unrelated as a broken leg, the same personal protective equipment, medicines, surgical needs, and more are needed. When the pandemic drives prices for these things up, everything a hospital does gets far more costly as a result.
Couple this increase in costs with the government-mandated loss of revenue from elective services and it is not long before any hospital would face closure. Both are already under bankruptcy protection.
Delays due to the lack of rapid-turnaround testing for COVID-19 have also added to expenses since the hospitals must use PPE and other medical resources for patients while it waits for test results that can take 24 to 48 hours to arrive.
Despite the fact that neither Penobscot Valley nor Calais Regional has had a single patient who is COVID-19 positive, they have been forced to follow the same rules against elective services that a hospital in the midst of a virus hot spot must follow. This has placed a dangerous and unnecessary strain on their finances.
Maine state government should have learned from the past when it comes to mandating health care and not providing the funding to carry it out. It has been barely a decade since the state budget had to include payments for an enormous debt to hospitals built up over many years.
We must not repeat the mistakes of the past by forcing hospitals out of business while we have access to more than enough federal funding sent to us for this specific purpose.
Government actions forced our hospitals into this dire financial situation under the threat of a viral outbreak. We owe it to them to provide a way out and keep them operating for the health of our communities, including the ongoing need to address the impact of COVID-19.
Sen. Kimberley Rosen represents District 8 in the Maine State Senate