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CMS unveils new rural health strategy . . .

By Virgil Dickson  | May 8, 2018 in Modern Healthcare

The CMS has made a commitment to keep rural communities in mind when developing regulations.

On Tuesday, the federal agency released an eight-page rural health strategy which outlined its promises to reduce regulatory barriers to telehealth, improve outreach to providers in these communities to make sure they understand CMS programs, and identify practical solutions that will help better care in these areas. The document did not outline policy announcements.

“This administration clearly understands that one of the keys to ensuring that those who call rural America home are able to achieve their highest level of health is to advance policies and programs that address their unique healthcare needs,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a comment.

Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association, called the strategy “substantial.” Verma had previously announced a rural plan was coming at an NRHA conference.

The strategy’s chief initiative is formally analyzing what impact any future rulemakings will have on rural providers and communities. That practice doesn’t happen consistently now, Morgan said.

“We are optimistic that this effort at ‘rural proofing’ will provide a better regulatory environment for rural providers,” he said.

Hospitals were thrilled that the strategy recognizes providers increasingly rely on telehealth for hard-to-reach patients.

“We’re pleased the administration has made these technologies central to its strategy and signaled the need to reduce barriers to their use,” said Erin O’Malley, senior director of policy at America’s Essential Hospitals.

Approximately 60 million people live in rural areas, according to the CMS.