Culpeper Star-Exponent: As illnesses persist, Spanberger urges end-of-year federal support for VA healthcare

CULPEPER STAR-EXPONENT, ALLISON BROPHY CHAMPION

U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger is urging congressional leaders to prioritize support for physicians and other healthcare providers as part of end-of-year government funding, amid surging cases of respiratory illnesses in Virginia and across the country.

Virginia is experiencing one of the worst surges of flu and flu-like illnesses in the country, according to a release from the congresswoman’s office.

Virginia ranks among the top 10 states for hospital and clinic visits for respiratory illnesses, according to CDC. Virginia Department of Health reports the state surpassed last year’s peak two months ahead of the typical start to flu season.

For the week ending Dec. 3, Virginia remained at ‘Very High’ for influenza-like activity with 8.6% of ER and urgent care visits for these illnesses, according to VDH. Of the visits, nearly 22% were in the 0-4 age range, VDH reported.

CDC reported last week that the U.S. is experiencing the highest levels of flu hospitalizations seen in 10 years, according to Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District. There are almost as many people hospitalized for flu in Virginia as COVID-19, the local health department said.

In the first week in December, COVID-19 hospitalizations were the highest they’ve been in three months in the U.S., according to RRHD.

For the week ending Dec. 3, Health UVA Culpeper Medical Center reported 85% of its ICU beds were occupied and 14 adult admissions for COVID-19.

The Culpeper ER saw 288 confirmed COVID cases for the week ending Dec. 3, a weekly figure that has remained pretty steady in the area since mid-October.

Spanberger said in her release that federal support for healthcare providers is needed now more than ever. If new support is not included in end-of-year funding, Virginia physicians and healthcare providers will see Medicare reimbursements cut by more than 8% due to expiring legislative provisions and looming budgetary cuts beginning Jan. 1.

“Patients and providers across the country would be left in an unstable financial situation, threatening access to care for patients as the surge of influenza worsens,” the congresswoman stated in the release.

In a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Spanberger urged leadership to prioritize inclusion of relief from the cuts at Virginia hospitals, urgent care centers and physician offices.

“These substantial cuts to reimbursements, along with high rates of patients with respiratory illness and ongoing staff shortages, have already put tremendous financial pressure on Virginia’s healthcare providers, especially safety net providers that work in underserved communities,” Spanberger said.

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