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CMS Announces Rural Community Model to Increase Access to Healthcare


Participating communities will work with the agency and stakeholders to improve healthcare delivery in rural areas.


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is developing a new model to promote local collaborations that transform rural health, according to a speech given by the agency’s Administrator, Seema Verma, at the National Rural Health Association annual conference.

Verma said that the model, set to come out later this year, will offer a pathway for stakeholder coalitions of providers, purchasers and payers to invest in increasing access and improving healthcare delivery.

The model looks to provide technical assistance and support to rural regions, such as modernizing infrastructure and using technology to provide financial stability and sustainability. According to Verma, value-based reimbursement can allow providers to focus on their local health needs, such as maternal health, chronic disease and substance use disorders to improve outcomes.

Participating communities can design a customized system aligned to their priorities and will be required to consider value-based payment approaches. Transitioning rural providers will be required to take on meaningful risk for cost and outcomes through alternative payment models. CMS might add seed funding to support communities with development, whether it’s a hub-and-spoke approach with telehealth or a plan to realign hospitals.

“Developing a long-term strategy for improving rural health and making it more sustainable is a key priority for CMS,” Verma said.

At the end of April, the agency proposed “Rethinking Rural Health" to address inequities in healthcare. CMS plans to increase the wage index of low-wage hospitals to ensure that people in rural areas have access to high quality and affordable healthcare.

If finalized, the policy will go into effect in October.

“Rethinking Rural Health is a vital part of CMS’s push to transform the healthcare delivery system to a model that delivers high quality, affordable and accessible healthcare for every American,” Verma wrote in a blog post.

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