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Government aid for not-for-profit health systems doubles amid COVID-19 pandemic

State and federal funding for hospitals and health systems has doubled over the past two years compared with historical averages as the government supplanted revenue lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Government support, which includes non-operating revenue like COVID-19 relief grants and disproportionate-share hospital payments, was 143{f771d91d784324d4be731abc64bffe0d1fd8f26504ceb311bcfd8e5b001778f4} higher for large systems in 2021 and 2020 compared with the two-year trailing median, according to data analysis from Merritt Research Services. Medium and small systems received 128.1{f771d91d784324d4be731abc64bffe0d1fd8f26504ceb311bcfd8e5b001778f4} and 167.5{f771d91d784324d4be731abc64bffe0d1fd8f26504ceb311bcfd8e5b001778f4} more aid over the past two years, respectively, Merritt’s analysis of about 170 not-for-profit health systems’ annual financial statements found.

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Dallas-based Baylor Scott & White Health, for instance, received $505 million in government aid in 2021 and $459 million in 2020, up from $244 million in 2019 and $271 million in 2018.

The Biden administration doled out more Provider Relief Funds in January,

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Most vulnerable still in jeopardy as COVID precautions ease

There aren’t many options for the immune-compromised as community-wide COVID-19 precautions wane. Health authorities are pushing a fourth vaccine dose for these vulnerable patients, since some get at least a little protection from repeat vaccinations. The immune-compromised are supposed to get three up-front doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines followed by a booster, one more shot than the U.S. recommends for everyone else.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also is considering if the immune-compromised need their booster a little sooner — three months after their last shot rather than five months.

But many patients are anxiously awaiting AstraZeneca’s Evusheld, the first set of antibodies grown in a lab to prevent COVID-19 — rather than treat it — in people who can’t make their own virus-fighters. Evusheld contains two types of antibodies, given in two shots at the same appointment, that are expected to last for six months.

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Revamped challenge to vaccine policy still has no legs, experts say

Several states’ revamped challenge to the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers likely won’t make a difference in the policy’s fate, but it raises new questions that could catch a judge’s eye, lawyers say.

Louisiana is leading 15 other states in an amended complaint filed last week against the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers at Medicare and Medicaid-certified facilities. The states argue in a motion to the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services improperly added state surveyors to the list of staff covered by the mandate, and say omicron’s ability to spread despite vaccines makes the policy meaningless.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that CMS’ mandate could continue while an appeal at the Fifth Circuit court is pending. The decision followed multiple challenges from states that questioned CMS’ authority to impose the broad requirement

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Kentucky governor signs essential caregiver measure related to long-term care facilities

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has signed a pandemic-related bill allowing designated family and friends to visit residents of long-term care facilities.

The measure won strong bipartisan support as it moved through the legislature.

The bill’s goal is to prevent long-term care residents from feeling isolated from their families as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. The bill maintains designated in-person visits in those facilities.

Under the bill, long-term care residents can designate at least one “essential personal care visitor” to make in-person visits. Visitors could include relatives, legal guardians, friends, caregivers or volunteers. Visitors would have to follow safety protocols of the community or facility.

The bill also applies to assisted living communities and mental health hospitals.

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The Check Up: Dr. Shreya Kangovi of Penn Medicine

The trust between provider and patient has long been a point of contention. A history of marginalizing some communities, and less than stellar representation within clinical ranks created rifts that only now are being addressed. This has become top up of mind for providers and payers as the wellbeing of communities becomes not just a hope, but an imperative. But even the most progressive and advanced organizations struggle to connect with patients who might need an array of services outside the walls of a clinic or hospital.

Dr. Shreya Kangovi, founding director of the Penn Center for Community Health Workers and an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, joins The Check Up to talk about an innovative strategy for the wellbeing of marginalized communities.

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Analysis: Opportunity is abundant for Spectrum to help Beaumont bounce back

Grand Rapids’ Spectrum Health launched its new integrated health system with Beaumont Health on Tuesday.

“Integrated” in the previous sentence is doing some heavy lifting. As of now, administrators of the new, temporarily named BHSH Health say there will be no noticeable changes for staff or patients, and the real integration work still lies ahead.

But questions remain on how exactly Spectrum plans to turn around the floundering Beaumont, which has seen its reputation suffer in recent years.

CEO John Fox’s merger attempts — three in the last two and half years — and cost-cutting measures were met with very public angst among staffers and led to an exodus of valuable physicians and high-value specialties. Beaumont’s attempt to merge with Illinois-based Advocate Aurora resulted in a vote of no confidence of leadership from physicians and nurses and, in the end, a shelving of the deal.

The merger with Spectrum wasn’t

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