CMS rolls out first rural health strategy

CMS' new rural health strategy unveiled May 8 aims to improve access to healthcare for 20 percent of people living in rural areas and ensure CMS policies and programs are not negatively affecting rural care. 

"For the first time, CMS is organizing and focusing our efforts to apply a rural lens to the vision and work of the agency," CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a press release. "The Rural Health Strategy supports CMS' goal of putting patients first."

The program, aptly named "CMS Rural Health Strategy," has five main goals. These include employing a rural perspective to CMS programs and policies, promoting provider engagement and support, strengthening telehealth services, empowering patients in rural areas, and leveraging partnerships with federal and state agencies, as well as payers, to advance the strategy.

The strategy was developed by the CMS Rural Health Council, a panel of experts convened in 2016, as well as input from rural health providers, consumers and others.

Within those objectives, CMS plans to address health IT and telehealth limitations, maternal health, behavioral health, primary care and substance abuse, particularly opioid abuse.

About 60 million Americans live in rural areas, and many of these people face significant obstacles to accessing healthcare services, according to CMS.


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