FILE - Virus Outbreak Iowa

Taylor Collins walks through the Iowa Capitol building rotunda, Tuesday, May 19, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. 

(The Center Square) – A slew of Iowa hospitals have cashed in on upward of $928 million over the last year as part of a government stimulus aimed at covering expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The findings are part of the data collected by IowaWatch.org from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which also details that the funds were part of $1.02 billion in accelerated and advance Medicare payments sent to Iowa hospitals, physicians, optometrists, chiropractors, psychiatrists, psychologists, other health care providers and senior living and mental health care facilities.

For hospitals, the payments, which must be paid back to Medicare and Medicaid Services, were as high as the $92.8 million provided to MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center, according to the IowaWatch analysis. A total of 77 hospitals in the state collected the payments.

The Medicare payment program is separate from such programs as the CARES Act and permitted applying health care providers to receive anticipated Medicare billings in advance.

National leader for the Chartis Center for Rural Health Michael Topchik told IowaWatch he expects the task of making repayment to be challenging for most hospitals.

“For them to pay that back, that will take them from a position of stabilizing that hospital to just putting them back right where they were, with feet to the fire,” he told IowaWatch.