Perspective: Voices from the Front Lines Make the Case for COVID-19 Relief

For the last few weeks, we’ve used this space to highlight the need for the next COVID-19 relief package to provide hospitals and health systems with additional resources and support so they can continue to care for patients and protect communities.

We’re pushing all the levers on your behalf. This week alone:

  • The Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care, of which we are a founding member, launched a new multimedia campaign, including new TV and radio ads, and is activating its 2.4 million supporters to take action.  
  • We hosted a virtual Advocacy Day where hundreds of hospital and health system leaders participated.
  • We hosted a briefing for congressional staff on the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color.
  • We held a press briefing to release a new report forecasting that total hospital revenue in 2021 could be down between $53 billion and $122 billion from pre-pandemic levels, while COVID-19 expenses continue to increase.

We also know that your stories from the front line carry the most weight and can make the most powerful case for why additional support is necessary right now. At our events this week, health care leaders made what they are facing very clear.

Judy Rich, president and CEO of Tucson Medical Center in Arizona, said, “We just cannot get ahead of the illness and the severity of the illness. Our workforce is tired. People are leaving nursing, we are trying everything we can to keep them.”

David Ramsey, president and CEO of Charleston Area Medical Center and Health System in West Virginia, said his system was on track to lose $5 million this month. “While the CARES Act [funds] were critically important in 2020, they did not negate the financial difficulties of the hospitals.”

Hugh Thomas, executive vice president, chief administrative officer and general counsel for Rochester Regional Health in New York, said his system has experienced around $35 million of reduced revenue in the past two months alone. “Ultimately it is about keeping the lights on and paying our team, who have been dramatically affected by this.”

John Haupert, president and CEO of Grady Health System in Atlanta, said, “We just came out of our third peak in this pandemic. When we’re in those peaks it stresses the system beyond its capacity – not to its capacity, but beyond. What keeps me up at night is the ability of health care workers to physically and mentally sustain that level of intensity into the future.”

LaRay Brown, president and CEO of One Brooklyn Health System in New York City, said, “It is extremely important that there be recognition on the federal level that there needs to be a basic reinvestment in the communities and the institutions that serve those communities. And it’s only if we have strong hospitals, strong community health centers and a strong health care ecosystem in all neighborhoods that we can keep people healthy in this country.”

Finally, AHA Board Member Nicholas Tejeda, CEO of the Hospitals of Providence – part of Tenet Healthcare – which serves patients in El Paso, Texas, and the Southwest region, pointed to lack of health insurance as the top predictor of area residents acquiring COVID-19. So the organization tries to “play a very large role in connecting people in the community with the marketplace” to enroll in Medicaid and Affordable Care Act plans.

These voices from the front lines reinforce the messages we are delivering day in and day out.

As action on the COVID-19 relief package moves to the Senate, we still have the opportunity to ensure our priorities are included.

Please see our Action Alert for more details on how you can get involved and make the case to your lawmakers. Your voice is important, and your legislators listen to you.