Virus Outbreak Hospitals Prepare

Medical personnel discuss patients that had been admitted for testing for the coronavirus March 13, 2020, at the entrance of Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, Maine.

(The Center Square) – The Maine Hospital Association estimates that suspending elective surgery and preventative health care during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to monthly losses of $250 million at medical facilities across the state.

“We are in big trouble,” Steven Michaud, president of the Maine Hospital Association, told the Portland Press Herald. "The losses are staggering. They are frightening. Things are starting to get better, but very slowly. People are skittish about coming back."

Even with the state reopening, Michaud said, the economic ramifications for hospitals might not be over.

“I think we are only starting to see the financial consequences of this,” Michaud said. "I don’t know how we come back from it. I don’t know if that’s even possible."

As part of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, Congress included a $175 billion Provider Relief Fund to help hospitals, doctors, and health clinics overcome the financial hit of postponing medical procedures, as well as for handling cases of the coronavirus.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has distributed about $125 billion so far, of which Maine received $323 million. It’s been split among nearly 1,000 service providers, including large hospital networks, private medical practices, and rural emergency response teams.

The state’s 36 hospitals so far have received about $225 million of the federal relief. Roughly $98 million went to MaineHealth, a system with nine hospitals, including the state’s largest.

Still, many health providers have had to rely on advance Medicare payments, effectively applying them like short-term, no-interest loans, to help cover what the stimulus money hasn’t. Health care facilities so far have taken nearly $600 million of these advances, which only include interest after a year.