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Take care of healthcare providers

How is it possible for Congress to approve as much as $3.3 trillion in epidemic-related aid to Americans ­– the amount already provided ­– without ensuring at least that the health care network was made whole?

It is, apparently.

Nearly 240 members of Congress have signed a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar regarding a change made in one aspect of the relief funding program. It is the Provider Relief Fund.

The idea behind the PRF was just what the name implies — aiding the health care network to keep providers safe and to ensure they and their facilities could continue serving patients. As one lawmaker put it, the PRF “helped enable providers to keep their doors open during these challenging times.”

It has been pointed out that many health care facilities, including hospitals, were on shaky financial ground before COVID-19 increased the strain. No doubt the PRF funding was welcome — and needed.

But at least some of it may have to be returned. As the lawmakers put it in their letter to Secretary Azar, changes in the program “could force many hospitals and other providers to return some of this vital funding and jeopardize patients’ accesss to care while the nation continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Azar is being asked merely to rescind the change in PRF rules, putting them back to where they were when many health care providers obtained help through the program.

Obviously, COVID-19 relief funding cannot be merely handed out to all comers. Eventually, some will be able to repay the money.

But the epidemic has placed enormous strains on many health care providers. Changing the PRF rules in what amounts to a deadly “game” that continues to threaten the lives of many Americans makes no sense.

Surely Azar realizes the dangerous folly of implementing new repayment demands on health care provider. The change should be reconsidered.

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