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Coronavirus

Maryland hospitals, nursing homes get millions in additional COVID-19 funding

Jade Quinn, pharmacist, draws a dosage of vaccine as visiting pharmacists at Maryland Baptist Aged Home administer the first round of novel-coronavirus vaccines released by Pfizer.

Maryland hospitals and skilled nursing facilities are getting millions of dollars in federal funding in the latest round from federal coffers to help pay for the cost of the coronavirus pandemic, state health officials announced Friday.

The funding totals about $80 million and includes money to help insurers pay for Medicare Advantage plans in the state, which have been dropping the privately run health plans for older adults because of costs.

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The funding for coronavirus pandemic-related burdens for health care providers could be the last as the national public health emergency winds down. That declaration was first made in January 2020 by the Trump administration and renewed every 90 days since. It was renewed again Thursday by the Biden administration.

The funds come from the federal American Rescue Plan.

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“This additional funding will help further ease some of the burdens the COVID-19 pandemic has caused our hospitals and skilled nursing facilities across the state,” said Dennis R. Schrader, state health secretary, in a statement. “These funds will especially help facilities support our frontline healthcare heroes, who sacrifice so much every day to keep Marylanders healthy and safe.”

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The hospitals and nursing facilities are each — as groups — set to receive $25 million under an agreement with leaders of the Maryland General Assembly and the administration of Gov. Larry Hogan.

An additional $30 million will go to the Medicare Advantage plans in the state based on the proportion of each plan’s enrollment in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. The funds aim to help stabilize the market as more long-term fixes are found.

The program became an issue a year ago when Hopkins Health Advantage Inc., a Maryland health insurer affiliated with Johns Hopkins Medicine, dropped all its customers in the city, as well as Calvert County, though maintaining coverage in 10 other counties. Other insurers had already left the market and another insurer more recently dropped plans in the Washington suburbs.

Those programs are popular around the country because the private insurance managers can offer additional services than traditional Medicare and are more similar to plans people already buy. But they are undersold in Maryland, insurers say, because of a unique hospital payment system in Maryland that aims to keep costs down by regulating rates. Insurers can’t negotiate higher payments to cover extra benefits.

As for the hospital and nursing costs, they have ballooned as providers covered the cost of extra protective gear, staff, vaccinations, treatments and testing during the pandemic.

“The University of Maryland Medical System is extremely grateful for the Hogan administration’s continued support for hospitals and the health care industry,” said Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System, in a statement.

Suntha said the system, the largest in the state, has provided care to more than 27,000 COVID-positive patients since March 2020.


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