New AHA and HHS Roadmaps for Sustainable Rural Health Care Align with HAP Initiatives
February 06, 2019
The American Hospital Association (AHA) this week released a new report, “Challenges Facing Rural Communities and the Roadmap to Ensure Local Access to High-quality Affordable Care,” outlining the trends and conditions that threaten rural hospitals’ ability to maintain access to health care services in their communities. Also this week, in remarks at the National Rural Health Association’s meeting in Washington, D.C., Alex Azar II, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) unveiled three strategies for making rural health care affordable, accessible, and high quality.
The AHA report outlines key strategic policy priorities to support the viability of rural hospitals and health care services. These priorities include:
- Fair and adequate reimbursement
- New models of care
- Regulatory relief
- Telehealth and broadband services
- Prescription drug price concerns
The three strategies addressed in the HHS plan include:
- Sustainability—including new payment models and leveraging the Health Resources and Services Administration’s community health centers
- Innovation—leveraging technology, including telemedicine, to improve rural health
- Flexibility—reducing unnecessary regulation with particular focus regarding scope of practice
The six priority areas identified in the AHA report and the three HHS strategies align strongly with HAP’s current initiatives to:
- Secure adequate public funding through Medicaid and key federal programs that offer targeted financial support to rural hospitals, including Medicare-dependent Small Rural Program, the Low-volume Hospital Adjustment, and critical access hospital designation
- Modernize outdated laws and regulations to create flexibility for rural hospitals to better meet the needs of their patients
- Modernize telehealth payment policies to cover more services and support the delivery of health care in rural communities
- Identify and address critical workforce issues facing rural communities
- Preserve the full benefit of the 340B program, which is critical for supporting access to affordable prescription drugs in vulnerable communities
- Improve patient access to Pennsylvania’s best specialists by ensuring consistent coverage of telemedicine services
- Modernize Pennsylvania’s nursing law so that advanced practice nurses can move toward full practice authority consistent with their training
Policymakers are paying close attention to what is happening in Pennsylvania. The state is launching the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model, an all-payer global budget model, in conjunction with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, approximately one in four Pennsylvanians live in rural areas of the state. Pennsylvania’s 42 rural hospitals are the primary, and sometimes the only, source of care in rural Pennsylvania. They are economic anchors and often the largest employer in rural communities. The new rural health model will provide predictable revenue for hospitals, with specific focus on meeting the unique health care needs of participating hospitals’ communities.
For additional information, contact Kate Slatt, HAP’s senior director, innovative payment and care delivery.