CMS recommits to improving rural health: 3 things to know

In honor of National Rural Health Day Nov. 15, CMS recommitted to to improving the health of those living in the country's rural communities.

Three things to know:

1. "We at CMS recognize the many obstacles that rural Americans face, including living in communities with disproportionally higher poverty rates, more chronic conditions and more uninsured or underinsured people," CMS Administrator Seema Verma wrote in a blog post. "Many rural communities lack access to specialty care and have a fragmented healthcare delivery system with an overworked and shrinking health workforce." 

2. CMS released the agency's first rural health strategy last spring, which focuses on ways the agency can better serve patients in rural areas and avoid unintended consequences of policy and program implementation. The strategy's objectives include advancing telehealth and telemedicine, applying a rural lens to CMS policies and leveraging partnerships to reach rural health goals.

3. CMS has already started to enact the strategy, such as finalizing a new billing code where clinicians can be paid separately when the patient checks in with the practitioner via phone or other device to determine medical necessity. Additionally, Medicare will also now pay separately for remote evaluation of recorded video or images submitted by the patient, which allows clinicians to be paid separately for reviewing patient-transmitted photo or video information to determine medical necessity.

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