• Article
  • October 27, 2020

Children’s Hospitals Unite to Advocate for CARES Act Funding

Initial rounds of federal aid were based on Medicare participation, which excluded children's hospitals.

By Mark Wietecha

Mark Wietecha, President and CEO, Children’s Hospital Association
Mark Wietecha, President and CEO, Children's Hospital Association

It's been eight months since the nation's children's hospitals mobilized to manage the COVID-19 surge. This resulted in $5 billion in lost patient revenues to date, plus cost increases to expand the screening, testing, and PPE necessary to protect staff, families and patients. The immediate effect on children's hospitals was catastrophic and unprecedented.

CARES Act relief to the hospital industry was initially channeled exclusively through Medicare participation. As children's hospitals don't provide care for those ages 65 and older, our entire pediatric industry was overlooked.

We received almost no federal support from the $30 billion distributed in early April. While fellow hospital association colleagues were empathetic, it was clear we were on our own to secure non-Medicare disaster relief support. All our children's hospitals rallied together through our association collaboration.

Together, we were instrumental in defining an alternative allocation of $1 billion in CARES support to all children's hospitals. Children's hospitals meeting the safety net allocation criteria received another $400 million.

We advocated for a children's hospital allocation for independently governed and specialized hospitals excluded from prior distributions, securing $1.4 billion in CARES support. To date, coronavirus-related financial damage relief totals nearly $3 billion.

While uncovered damages remain, we've mitigated the worst of the negative effects. We did this by advocating with one voice, even as the distributions didn't equally support every hospital. This would not have happened without the collaboration of children's hospitals outside the volumes of support provided to the delivery system caring for adults.

The power of community, our national network of children's hospitals serving kids covered by Medicaid, has never been more evident. We stayed bipartisan and focused on our mission for children.

We learned our brand and insistence on being heard makes a difference. We learned patience and persistence are essential to soldiering through setbacks in advocating for children in a pandemic dominated by adult priorities.

We'll need these experiences to weather the continued fiscal storms as Medicaid programs in every state experience inevitable cost pressure.

Thank you to every children's hospital team that stepped forward to support our national cause. We made a difference on behalf of the millions of children and families we serve.

Mark Wietecha is president and CEO of the Children's Hospital Association.

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