Bipartisan members of Congress are urging the Department of Health and Human Services to quickly distribute COVID-19 relief funding to Medicaid providers following delays. 

The holdup in funding could result in “long-term financial hardship for providers” who serve some of the most vulnerable patients, ranking members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Finance Committee wrote in a letter also called on HHS Secretary Alex Azar Wednesday.

The lawmakers noted that Congress approved $175 billion to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF) to provide financial relief for healthcare providers during the pandemic under the CARES Act. 

HHS has allocated about $55 billion for Medicare providers, including skilled nursing facilities, but the lawmakers are concerned that “providers that depend on Medicaid for a large source of their payments have not yet received a meaningful allocation from the PHSSEF.” 

“Many of these providers are safety net providers that operate on thin profit margins, if at all. The COVID-19 pandemic has strained their already scarce resources, threatening their ability to keep their doors open in the midst of a declared public health emergency,” the lawmakers wrote. 

The lawmakers called on the agency to provide a timeline for when the funds will be distributed and under what parameters. The letter also asks Azar what level of funding does HHS plan to dedicate to Medicaid-dependent providers and what factors contributed to delays in disbursing funds to those providers. 

“It is our sincere hope that HHS can martial its resourcefulness, and its relationship with states, to develop a methodology to fairly and robustly allocate funds for Medicaid providers that reflects their costs, the nature of their care, and the financial pressures they face. Medicaid-dependent providers serve some of the frailest and most vulnerable Americans,” the lawmakers wrote. 

“We must not let their financial insolvency due to the COVID-19 pandemic threaten access to essential care for these individuals,” they added. 

The group set the agency’s deadline to respond to the questions by June 10.