Federal Government Awards Oregon Providers Nearly $120 Million

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The Biden administration has started to distribute $7.5 billion in American Rescue Plan funds to more than 40,000 health care providers in each state and in Washington D.C. and six U.S. territories who’ve been hurt by the pandemic. Nearly $120 million was earmarked for about 480 providers in Oregon. 

The grants are mostly for hospitals, clinics and other providers in rural areas who serve low-income patients and Medicare beneficiaries. 

“Health care providers in rural communities have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, and they continue to experience significant financial hardships,” said Xavier Becerra, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “The infusion of these funds will be critical to ensuring rural communities maintain access to high-quality health care and addressing urgent needs like workforce recruitment and retention.”

Federal research has found that nearly half of rural providers across the country were operating in the red even before the pandemic. When Covid-19 hit, they faced rising costs for protective gear and televisit services. They had to increase pay to attract staff, yet lost revenue in cancelled procedures and fewer office visits.

Providers applied for the money by early November, and the awards were based on claims for seniors and others on Medicare, low income patients on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The average payment was nearly $180,000, with payments ranging from $500 to about $43 million. In Oregon, 30 providers received more than $1 million. 

St. Charles Health System, which is based in Bend and has four hospitals in central Oregon, was the top recipient, winning more than $10 million.

Though the health system applied, it did not know how much it would get.

“We are appreciative of the funding and believe it is completely necessary in our current financial environment,” St. Charles said in a statement. “The money we received will be used to offset costs associated with caring for Covid-19 patients and soften the impact of lost revenues mostly due to the many thousands of surgeries we’ve had to cancel.”

Skylakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls was the second-highest award winner, receiving $7 million. Oregon Health & Science University, which is based in Portland but runs the Oregon Office of Rural Health, got $6.5 million. Bay Area Hospital District in Coos Bay garnered nearly $6 million, while Salem Health was awarded $4 million. 

Three of Oregon’s Democratic congressional members, Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, released statements on Tuesday welcoming the money.

“These providers deserve every ounce of federal support to help them keep Oregonians safe and healthy,” Wyden said.

“This ARPA funding will give necessary relief to Oregon’s rural health clinics, whose services contribute to the health and safety of rural communities across the state,” said Merkley.

And DeFazio, who focused on grants to his district in southwestern Oregon, said: “This needed funding will help vitally needed health care providers who are on the front lines of the pandemic keep their workforce, make up for lost revenue, and stay open so they can continue serving rural patients.” 

Health care providers in Oregon have received other Covid awards and benefitted from contract nurses, certified nursing assistants, X-ray technicians and other professionals who are being paid by pandemic funds.

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.

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