Backlash grows as pandemic relief stumbles

Big hospital chains that see the most elderly patients have so far received the most federal funds; executives of the for-profit conglomerate HCA Health Care told investors this week they received a whopping $700 million.

Health officials have defended their decision to use a formula relying on total Medicare revenue as a speedy way to push money out the door, but individual hospitals still don’t understand how exactly the administration calculated their checks. HHS has altered its formula for the next batch of money, which also includes billions for rural areas and hot spots.

“We are all utterly perplexed trying to figure out what the hell this formula is and how it’s going to work,” one health care consultant said. “They could be sending out checks today, and we truly don’t know how they’re doing it.”

Mystery also shrouds a pot of money that’s supposed to cover coronavirus treatment for the uninsured — a policy the White House touted as an efficient and targeted alternative to offering a special Obamacare sign-up. HHS has banned any hospital that dips into this fund from also charging patients but hasn’t specified how much money is available, nor have officials told the uninsured how to seek recourse if they do see medical bills.

Ivy League gets shredded

The culture war over the CARES Act was in full swing last week over the prospect that some of the nation’s wealthiest universities might receive federal funds. The backlash, largely from Republicans and the Trump administration, came swiftly against elite schools with large endowments that were initially in line to get a slice of the aid.

Soon after, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania each said they would forfeit millions of dollars the law allocated to their campuses. Their decisions came after a torrent of criticism about the funding from President Donald Trump, some GOP senators, Fox News and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who urged all wealthy universities to give up the stimulus money that her agency is in the process of doling out to colleges.

Meanwhile, colleges and universities are still waiting to receive the bulk of the roughly $14 billion in funding earmarked for campuses and student assistance under the law, nearly a month after it was signed. Only last week did the Education Department start to move more quickly to distribute the money.

College leaders and some Democrats were incensed all over again by a new condition DeVos imposed on the money — blocking aid to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and international students.

IRS under pressure

The IRS has pushed out a lot of stimulus payments in a hurry, but there’s still been plenty of hang-ups.

Some checks have gone to the accounts of deceased Americans even as others say they haven’t received payments or got the wrong amounts. Many gripe the IRS’ website is difficult to use.