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CMS Extends Deadline for New Rural Health Pilot Program

January 11, 2021

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has extended the application deadline for health care providers, community organizations, government agencies, and other groups looking to take part in a new federal program aimed at redesigning health care in rural communities.

In the first phase of the program, known as the Community Health Access and Rural Transformation Model (CHART), CMS is providing $75 million in funding to 15 rural communities across the U.S. to develop local transformation plans. With this seed money, selected organizations will work with local health care providers and payors in an effort to improve access to care for rural residents while reducing overall costs.

Due to COVID-19, CMS has extended the deadline for rural organizations to apply for CHART to March 16, 2021. A list of eligible applicants is available online. Later this year, CMS will seek applications from 20 rural-focused Accountable Care Organizations to participate in the program, as well.

CMS officials said the new program has several key features including:

  • Increasing financial stability for rural providers, providing up-front investments and payments based on quality measures and patient outcomes
  • Removing regulatory burden by providing waivers that increase operational and regulatory flexibility for rural providers, increasing access to telehealth services, and allowing rural outpatient departments and emergency rooms to be paid as if they were classified as a hospital
  • Enhancing patient access to health care services by ensuring rural providers remain financially sustainable and can offer additional services to address social determinants of health, such as food and housing

The new federal program comes as state and federal health agencies are launching new initiatives to support rural health care. Rural hospitals and health systems play a critical role in patient health outcomes, with studies indicating that inpatient mortality increases by nearly 9 percent when rural facilities close.

HAP continues to support rural hospitals across the commonwealth and advocates for policies at the state and federal level that enable these facilities to provide excellent care in their communities.

During 2019, the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model launched to ensure rural hospitals remain anchors in their communities. To date, 17 hospitals and six payors have enrolled in the state’s global budget pilot program, which provides a stable revenue source to help hospitals better plan their budgets and invest in innovative health programs. CHART includes some design elements from the Pennsylvania model.

For additional information about CHART and other new rural delivery models, contact Kate Slatt, HAP’s vice president, innovative payment and care delivery.