From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
Many rural hospitals are still struggling to overcome financial losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Even if they received federal relief money, hospitals continue to struggle because now they have to reimburse the federal government for relief payments.
That’s why the American Rescue Plan Steering Committee has recommended that the state commit another $60 million to help struggling hospitals.
The governor appointed the steering committee after Arkansas began receiving billions in federal relief funding. It consists of legislators and department secretaries.
The relief funding is meant to help hospitals in jeopardy of closing because of financial difficulties.
Often, those hospitals are in counties with fewer than 50,000.
Also, the struggling hospitals are not connected to large health care systems. Those hospitals typically operate with a slimmer profit margin.
They can apply for grants to cover labor costs, and their applications have to include a sustainability plan.
The application must contain details of how they intend to get back in solid financial condition.
A spokesman for the Arkansas Hospital Association said that those rural hospitals are at a crisis point.
It’s too soon to say how many hospitals will apply for relief funding.
One concern is that it is a big step for a hospital to admit that it is in financial crisis, according to the director of the state Human Services Department, who is on the steering committee.
Compared to those in surrounding states, small hospitals in Arkansas were in relatively good shape before the pandemic hit.
In neighboring states, dozens of rural hospitals were forced to close. In Arkansas that did not happen, thanks to the Medicaid expansion originally proposed by Governor Mike Beebe.
The legislature has wisely voted to continue the Medicaid expansion plan, and that’s the main reason people in rural Arkansas can still rely on local hospitals.
However, the pandemic has created new challenges for medical providers in rural parts of the state.
Fortunately, the steering committee and the legislature recognize the threat and are willing to commit resources needed to keep health care available in every corner of the state.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.