Approximately 60 million Americans or roughly 1 in 5 live in rural areas, with nearly every state having a rural county. CMS recognizes the significant obstacles faced by patients and providers in rural areas and places an unprecedented priority on improving the health of these Americans, including the introduction of the first Rural Health Strategy. In the last year, CMS took several steps to improve rural health:
- Expanded access to telehealth and other virtual services across the Medicare program
- Proposed to increase the wage index of rural and other low wage index hospitals through the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) proposed rule: CMS is seeking input on several approaches for accomplishing this
- Proposed to remove urban-to-rural hospital reclassifications from the calculation of the rural floor wage index value through the IPPS proposed rule
- Announced the CMS Primary Care First Initiative, a new set of payment models for primary care practices and other providers: Seeking public comment on the Direct Contracting: Geographic Population-Based Payment model option
- Developing a new innovative model for rural communities that will offer a pathway for stakeholder coalitions to invest collectively in increasing access and improving rural health care delivery
See the full text of this excerpted CMS Blog (issued May 8).
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) National Quality Strategy (NQS) is a national effort to align public- and private-sector stakeholders to achieve better health and healthcare for all Americans. It was developed “through a transparent and collaborative process with input from a range of stakeholders. More than 300 groups, organizations, and individuals, representing all sectors of the health care industry and the general public, provided comments.”
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) contracts with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Networks to implement the NQS principles and HHS Secretary’s priorities in the ESRD community. Starting in December 2017, Networks will launch a set of new quality improvement activities, data reporting requirements, and educational programs that reflect updated priorities and goals.
HHS Secretary’s Priorities
- Reform, Strengthen, and Modernize the Nation’s Health Care System
- Protect the Health of Americans Where They Live, Learn, Work, and Play
- Strengthen the Economic and Social Well-Being of Americans Across the Lifespan
- Foster Sound, Sustained Advances in the Sciences
- Promote Effective and Efficient Management and Stewardship
- Empower patients to make decisions about their health care
- Usher in a new era of state flexibility and local leadership
- Support innovative approaches to improve quality, accessibility, and affordability
- Improve the CMS customer experience
CMS has established programs and educational resources to promote the reduction of healthcare disparities in the medically vulnerable patient population. The CMS Equity Plan for Medicare aims to help healthcare practitioners take action to reduce disparities among minority populations.
“The Office of Minority Health’s (OMH) vision is to eliminate disparities in healthcare quality and access and to help all CMS beneficiaries achieve their highest level of health.” The ESRD Networks, QIO Program, and CMS have made several resources available to support these efforts.
Please click here to access resources that will help staff members better understand how to collect, measure, and reduce disparities in healthcare outcomes. Also included are success stories and best practices for reducing health disparities that can be leveraged by practitioners and care partners.