Equity And The Uneven Distribution Of Federal COVID-19 Relief Funds To US Hospitals

Health Aff (Millwood). 2021 Sep;40(9):1473-1482. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2020.02018.


People of color, immigrants, and those relying on the safety net have experienced a disproportionate share of the death and disease resulting from COVID-19 in the US. At the same time, Congress delegated great power to the Trump administration to distribute $178 billion in funding to health care providers. We studied the relationship between the relief received by 2,709 hospitals and community- and hospital-level characteristics. Funding through early February 2021 averaged $25.7 million per hospital. Our findings offer a mixed picture. Some correlates of real-world need, including serving a community with a very high share of Black residents or having a very high ratio of Medicaid revenue to beds, were associated with meaningfully increased funding. Other correlates of need-including serving a very high share of Hispanic residents or a Medically Underserved Area-were associated with decreased funding or no difference in funding. Our findings emphasize that funding formulas reflect consequential political judgments. In future allocations, the relationship between need and aid should be strengthened by de-emphasizing historical net patient revenue in favor of a broader set of community and hospital characteristics.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Financial Management*
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Medicaid
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • United States