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National Rural Health Council Announces Rural Health Strategy

May 08, 2018

A new national rural health strategy aims to make rural health care accessible, affordable, and accountable.

The Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) Rural Health Council (RHC) developed the strategy with rural stakeholder and consumer input. The RHC plan calls for:

  • Ensuring CMS health programs and policies consider the needs of rural communities
  • Improving access to care through provider engagement and support
  • Advancing telemedicine by reducing barriers
  • Empowering rural patients to make informed health care decisions
  • Creating effective partnerships at the federal, state, and local level to maximize expertise around rural health care

About 70 percent (48 of 67 counties) of Pennsylvania is rural. Hospitals play a critical role in delivering health care, supplementing social services, and providing jobs and economic stability in these regions. They are cornerstones in their communities, where many residents are older and sicker, and chronic diseases may be more prevalent.

HAP and member hospital advocacy efforts align with the RHC’s goals to:

  • Increase the number of trained and licensed allied health professionals able to provide health care in rural communities
  • Reduce reporting burdens, and revise quality measures to ensure they are outcomes-based and meaningful to rural providers and patients   
  • Advance telemedicine and remove barriers to remote care such as reimbursement, cross-state licensure issues, and administrative and financial burdens
  • Support CMS’ opioid strategy, given the disproportionate impact the opioid epidemic is having on rural communities
  • Promote patient and family engagement programs and strengthen patient-provider relationships

HAP supports recently introduced legislation, the Rural Emergency Medical Center (REMC) Act of 2018 (H.R. 5678), which establishes a new rural facility designation under Medicare. The bill would allow facilities meeting certain requirements to provide 24/7 emergency department care and other outpatient services in vulnerable rural communities, and receive enhanced reimbursement rates.

For additional information about HAP’s rural advocacy efforts, contact Kate Slatt, senior director, innovative payment and care delivery.

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