Association between COVID-19 relief funds, hospital characteristics

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Key Points

Question  What is the association between financial assistance through the High-Impact Distribution Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act program and hospital-level financial resources?

Findings  In this cross-sectional study among 952 hospital-level entities, wide ranges existed in CARES Act funding, with 24% of hospitals receiving less than $5 million in funding and 8% receiving more than $50 million. Academic-affiliated hospitals with higher pre–COVID-19 assets and hospitals that had higher COVID-19 cases received higher levels of funding, while critical access hospitals received lower levels of financial assistance.

Meaning  CARES Act funds may have disproportionately gone to hospitals that were in a stronger financial situation prior to the pandemic compared with those that were not, but funds also went disproportionately to those that eventually had the most cases.

Abstract

Importance  In response to financial stress created by the reduction in care during the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals received financial assistance through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act program. To date, the allocation of CARES Act funding is not well understood.

Objective  To examine the disbursement of the High-Impact Distribution CARES Act funds and the association between financial assistance and hospital-level financial resources prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This cross-sectional analysis of US-based hospitals and health systems assesses the hospital characteristics associated with CARES Act funding with linear regression models using linked hospital and health system–level information on CARES Act funding with hospital characteristics from Hospital Cost Report data.

Exposures  Hospital and health system CARES Act financial assistance.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Hospital and health system affiliation, status, and financial health prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Data analysis took place from December 2020 through June 2021.

Results  The analysis included 952 hospital-level entities with an average payment of $33.6 million, most of which was received during the first payment round. Wide ranges existed in CARES Act funding, with 24% of matched hospitals receiving less than $5 million in funding and 8% receiving more than $50 million. Academic-affiliated hospitals, hospitals with higher pre–COVID-19 assets and hospitals with higher COVID-19 cases received higher levels of funding, while critical access hospitals received lower levels of financial assistance. A 10% increase in hospital assets, endowment size, and COVID-19 cases was associated with 1.4% (95% CI, 0.8% to 2.0%; P = .003), 0.2% (95% CI, 0.1% to 0.3%; P < .001), and 3.5% (95% CI, 2.8% to 4.2%; P < .001) increases in CARES Act funding, respectively.

Conclusions and Relevance  In this cross-sectional study of US hospitals and health systems, findings suggest that High-Impact Distribution CARES Act funds may have disproportionately gone to hospitals that were in a stronger financial situation prior to the pandemic compared with those that were not, but funds also went disproportionately to those that eventually had the most cases.

Source: Association between COVID-19 relief funds, hospital characteristics



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