More COVID-19 relief funds went to wealthier hospitals, study finds

Hospitals that were in a strong financial position before the pandemic received more money from the Provider Relief Fund than those with weaker balance sheets, according to a new study published Oct. 22 in JAMA Health Forum

For the study, researchers affiliated with nonprofit policy think tank Rand Corp., analyzed the relief funds received by 952 hospitals.

Five key findings:

1. Critical access hospitals received 40 percent lower funding than their larger and wealthier peers. 

2. Nonprofit hospitals received 13 percent more Provider Relief Fund assistance, and teaching hospitals received 42 percent higher funding.

3. More funding also went to hospitals caring for the greatest number of COVID-19 patients, which were larger academic medical centers and bigger hospitals. 

4. Of the 952 hospitals in the study, 24 percent received less than $5 million, while 8 percent received more than $50 million. The highest percentage of hospitals, 26.3 percent, received $10 million to $20 million. 

5. When accounting for differences in patient composition and the total number of hospital discharges, researchers found that a 10 percent increase in hospital assets prior to the pandemic was associated with a 1.4 percent increase in relief payments. Additionally, among hospitals with endowment funds, a 10 percent increase in these funds was associated with a 3.5 percent increase in Provider Relief Aid money. 

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