Scalise Urges HHS to Release Funds for Local Hospitals
Congressman Steve Scalise today sent a letter to U.S. -Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt urging him to release the already appropriated funds for New Orleans area hospitals.
In September 2008 legislation passed that provided $600 million funding for Social Services Block Grants. Hospitals in the New Orleans area are expected to be eligible to receive some of this funding.
"It is imperative that these funds be released immediately," Scalise said. "Due to the delays in re-opening Charity and the VA hospitals, the existing hospitals continue to provide the necessary services for their displaced patients. New Orleans area hospitals are projecting annual losses for 2008 totaling more than $130 million. Without sufficient and immediate help, patients in Southeast Louisiana may face reduction or elimination of hospital services."
The text of Congressman Scalise's letter is as follows:
Monday, January 5, 2009
The Honorable Michael Leavitt
Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20201
Dear Secretary Leavitt:
I write today to urge your immediate release of Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) funds to the State of Louisiana to address the needs of New Orleans area hospitals that continue to struggle as a result of the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina.
As you know, Congress passed the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act of 2009 (H.R. 2638) in September 2008 which provides $600 million in funding under the SSBG program for necessary expenses resulting from "hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters occurring during 2008," and by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It is imperative that these funds be released immediately so the Greater New Orleans area hospitals can use their portion to start recuperating from the losses they sustained as a result of Hurricane Katrina.
The health care infrastructure in the New Orleans region was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and remains in a very delicate state. New Orleans area hospitals are projecting losses for 2008 totaling over $130 million. As you are aware, the State-run "Big Charity" hospital and federal Veterans Administration Hospital in Louisiana remain closed and are unlikely to reopen before 2013. While these facilities remain closed, the financial stability of the existing hospitals, and more importantly the sustainability of the services they provide, are crucial to the health and well-being of our citizens. Without sufficient and immediate help, patients in Southeast Louisiana may face reduction or elimination of hospital services.
Funding under the SSBG program is vitally necessary to preserve the hospitals' ability to provide adequate health care services in our community. After the hurricanes, these hospitals remained open and continue to provide more than 90 percent of hospital-based services in the area. It is imperative that the SSBG funds already appropriated by Congress be released to eligible entities as quickly as possible.
Thank you for your prompt consideration and attention to this matter.
Member of Congress