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Hospitals need all the help they can get

Many U.S. hospitals are under siege because of COVID-19. Both in personnel and other resources, they need all the help they can get.

Earlier this year, when most people thought the epidemic would peak by this fall, Congress acted wisely by including in the CARES Act a provision suspending part of a 2011 law. That statute reduces Medicare payments to hospitals by 2%, through something called the Medicare “sequester.”

Whether that ever was wise is questionable. It certainly makes no sense now — but the CARES Act suspension expires on Dec. 31.

U.S. Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Brad Schneider, D-Ill., have introduced a bill to extent the relief from Medicare cuts for the duration of the emergency.

As McKinley put it, at a time when health care workers need help, Congress should do all it can “to ease their burden.”

“Now is not the time to reinstitute across the board cuts to our providers,” agreed Schneider.

Precisely. Just one aspect of the crisis makes the point: Many hospitals are coping with severe staff shortages. Part of the reason for that is the crush of COVID-19 patients, which threatens to overcome some health care facilities. Another challenge has been hospital personnel coming down with the disease themselves or being forced to take time off the job because they need to be quarantined.

Hospitals dealing with financial crunches — which would be aggravated if the Medicare cuts kick back in ­– are limited in incentives they can offer for temporary personnel and overtime they can pay for permanent staffers.

Now is not the time for lack of financial resources to make the crisis worse. The McKinley-Schneider bill should be approved with dispatch.

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