Ninety percent of Americans live in counties hit by a climate disaster within the last 10 years, and more than 600 U.S. hospitals are at risk of closure
Bill would commit $105 billion in federal funding to upgrade health facilities
Legislation builds on Senator Markey’s Green New Deal for Health
Boston (August 2, 2023) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and author of the Green New Deal for Health, and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) today announced the introduction of the Granting Resources for Eliminating Emissions Now in (GREEN) Hospitals Act. The legislation would provide $105 billion to revive a New Deal-era program to modernize and weatherize health facilities in order to reduce emissions, protect public health, and ensure that more Americans have access to health care before, during, and after climate disasters and extreme weather events.
“From raging wildfires to devastating flooding, the climate crisis is here, and our health care system is not immune. High winds create power outages – leaving patients and providers without lifesaving equipment. Flooded hospitals shut down, and patients must travel further or wait longer for care. Meanwhile, outdated hospital infrastructure spews dirty emissions into our atmosphere,” said Senator Markey. “Health systems are meant to be a port in the storm, but they cannot be if they don’t have the infrastructure to protect us now and in the future. The GREEN Hospitals Act is an essential step towards a health system that recognizes that climate justice is health justice.”
“As hospitals across America provide critical lifesaving care every day, we must ensure they are able to operate under severe weather conditions that have become far too prevalent due to the climate crisis,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “This legislation would give hospitals the funding and resources they need to increase capacity, be more resilient in the face of public health crises and climate disasters, and reduce their environmental footprints. I’m so proud to join Senator Markey in introducing this bill to safeguard our nation’s collective health while protecting our planet for future generations.”
As the climate crisis brings stronger storms, hotter heat waves, and more severe wildfires to communities, the United States’ aging medical infrastructure is increasingly at risk. Hundreds of hospitals along the East Coast are currently at risk of flooding from hurricanes. Heatwaves and wildfires threaten the power infrastructure of the health care system across the West. Devastating tornadoes have already destroyed critical rural hospitals in the South. Severe flooding is forcing health care facilities to close, including Norwood Hospital in Massachusetts. Medical facilities are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, and they lack the capital to invest in critical infrastructure that would improve pre-disaster mitigation and climate resiliency. In addition to people requiring acute medical attention in the aftermath of extreme weather, communities rely on undisrupted access to care. Pregnant people need access to prenatal care, people with opioid use disorder need access to medication treatment, and kidney patients need access to dialysis.
Specifically, the GREEN Hospital Act would invest $100 billion to revive the New Deal’s Hill-Burton grant program to fund capital projects that increase capacity to provide essential health care and update facilities to become more resilient to climate disasters and public health crises. In exchange for Hill-Burton funding, medical facilities would commit to a community service obligation to provide a specific amount of free or below-cost health care services to qualified individuals unable to pay. The legislation would also provide $5 billion into planning grants to fund pre-development planning needs, such as community assessments and engineering evaluations, so sustainability and resiliency projects for medical facilities meet the needs of the surrounding communities and patient populations.
The legislation is endorsed by Health Care Without Harm, Boston Medical Center, and Providence Hospital System.
“As a safety-net trauma center in a coastal city, which serves the area’s most vulnerable patient population, going green and building for campus resiliency is critical to Boston Medical Center (BMC) delivering on its mission. In order to care for patients and maintain emergency access to critical care services during a natural disaster, BMC has proactively made changes to increase resiliency of critical care hospital infrastructure. BMC supports Senator Markey’s introduction of the GREEN Hospitals Act in order to bring critical federal resources to bear to further bolster the health sector’s role in mitigating the climate crisis,” said Bob Biggio, Senior Vice President of Facilities and Support Services at Boston Medical Center.
“If we do not act quickly, the climate crisis threatens to undo the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century and disrupt health care operations across the country. Senator Markey’s Granting Resources for Eliminating Emissions Now (GREEN) in Hospitals Act will build the critical hospital infrastructure we need to speed recovery from and prepare for the extreme weather events and wildfires that impact so many people in the U.S. The GREEN Hospitals Act will ensure our nation’s health care systems are climate-smart and climate-resilient,” said Dr. Antonia Herzog, Director of Climate Policy and Advocacy at Health Care Without Harm.
Senator Markey has long brought attention to the interconnection between climate change and health care policy and fought to advance clean, green energy in the health care system. Last year, Senator Markey wrote to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra requesting HHS modernize current Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulations that require certain health care facilities to adhere to outdated electrical standards requiring the use of fossil-fueled generators, often powered by diesel fuel, as the emergency power source for their buildings. In March, CMS heeded the call by issuing a new waiver to allow U.S. health care facilities to transition to safer, cheaper, and more reliable clean energy infrastructure in the form of renewable-powered microgrids or independent electric grids. In May, Senator Markey and his colleagues in the House introduced the Hazard Pay for Health Care Heroes Act to raise hazard pay and strengthen protections for health care workers. During the same month, Senator Markey and Representatives Paul Tonko (NY-20) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) reintroduced their Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act (CMWRA), bipartisan legislation to establish a first-of-its-kind $36 million pilot grant program through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide funding to local community-based mental wellness and resilience programs. Also, in May, Senator Markey and Representative Lauren Underwood (IL-14) reintroduced the Protecting Moms and Babies Against Climate Change Act, legislation to address climate change risks to pregnant and postpartum people and their infants. In April, Senator Markey and Representative Ro Khanna (CA-17) introduced the Green New Deal for Health to enable the U.S. health care system to respond to climate change by improving sustainability and supporting patients, providers, and communities.