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Medicare announces participants in effort to improve access, quality of care in rural areas

Medicare announces participants in effort to improve access, quality of care in rural areas

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the participants in the Frontier Community Health Integration Project (FCHIP) Demonstration, an effort to increase access to care for Medicare beneficiaries in areas of the country where access to health services can be limited because of distance from providers. Ten critical access hospitals (CAHs) in Montana, Nevada, and North Dakota will participate in the Demonstration, which begins this August. The FCHIP Demonstration is another example of how the Administration is working to ensure that Americans receive better care, we spend our health care dollars more wisely, and we have healthier people.

The FCHIP Demonstration, a statutory mandate launched by the CMS Innovation Center in collaboration with the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, located in the Health Resources and Services Administration, will test new models of integrated, coordinated health care in the most sparsely populated rural counties in the nation over three years. This demonstration program will encourage the ten CAHs to provide essential services that are often not financially viable in rural communities with the goals of improving quality of care, increasing patient satisfaction in rural communities, and spending health care dollars more wisely. The demonstration will provide financial incentives for care coordination activities for local CAHs to reduce unnecessary admissions and readmissions across their networks of care.

“Medicare beneficiaries who live in frontier areas of the country sometimes travel hundreds of miles to see a doctor. This increases the cost of care and can discourage beneficiaries from seeking treatment,” said Patrick Conway, M.D., principal deputy administrator and chief medical officer at CMS. “The effort that is beginning today will look at ways to shrink the distance between the Medicare beneficiary and the care they need.”

Applications were received from CAHs in Montana, Nevada, and North Dakota (although eligible, CAHs in Alaska or Wyoming did not apply).

Specifically, the demonstration aims to:

  • support the CAH and local delivery system in keeping patients within the community who might otherwise be transferred to distant providers;
  • test whether payments for certain services will enhance access to care for patients, increase the integration and coordination of care among providers, and reduce avoidable hospitalizations, admissions, and transfers; and
  • test new CAH activities in three service categories: skilled nursing care, telehealth, and ambulance services.

HRSA’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy will monitor the work of the technical assistance provider, Montana Health and Research Education Foundation, and collect information on key policy challenges facing frontier providers, while CMS will test alternative payment and administrative strategies. 

For more information on the Frontier Community Health Integration Project Demonstration, please visit: