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Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service to Distribute Federal Funding to Rural Hospitals

September 23, 2021 by Reece Nations
(Photo by Dan McCue)

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is disbursing an initial amount of $2 million to four health care entities in four states to bolster access to their services in underserved communities.

Funds will be distributed to participating hospitals in rural areas to overhaul their health care delivery systems. CMS is conducting the program under its Community Health Access and Rural Transformation model designed to reconcile health disparities, improve community health outcomes, and meet the distinct needs of individuals living in rural areas through telemedicine.

“By expanding access to primary care, behavioral and maternity care services, we are investing in the health of rural residents,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a written statement. “Providing increased access to health care in rural communities is a priority for the Biden-Harris administration. These awards are one step to ensure access to health care is equitable and that we are reaching underserved communities.”

The entities receiving awards from the program are the University of Alabama Birmingham, State of South Dakota Department of Social Services, Texas Health and Human Services Commission and Washington State Healthcare Authority. These organizations will utilize the awarded funds to create and execute a strategy to redesign their community’s health care delivery systems over the course of the seven-year model.

The CHART model is a cooperative agreement funding opportunity for rural communities that face significant health care impediments, according to CMS. Rural hospitals will be able to use the funds to fortify financial stability amid low patient volumes and high average fixed costs as well as helping to attract and retain a workforce.

“South Dakota’s rural landscape presents unique challenges for health care service delivery,” South Dakota Department of Social Services Cabinet Secretary Laurie Gill said in a written statement. “These funds will help address access to care issues in rural areas of the state and accelerate the state’s transition to more innovative payment methodologies and value-based purchasing.”

Other key aspects of the model are designed to reduce regulatory burden through waivers that offer improved operational and regulatory flexibility for rural providers. Further, the program will offer enhanced health care services access to beneficiaries by ensuring rural providers remain financially tenable and are able to offer additional services that focus on social determinants of health like food and housing.

Each health care entity is eligible to receive as much as $5 million total after completing milestones over the course of six performance periods. Over 57 million people live in rural communities across the country and they generally tend to be older and have more complicated health needs than their counterparts in urban communities.

“As we work to address health disparities throughout the state, this funding will help break down barriers to accessing care while connecting rural Texans with health care providers in creative ways and improving overall health outcomes within their communities,” Texas HHSC Chief Financial Officer Trey Wood said in a written statement. 

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