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CMS Proposes to Enhance Medical Workforce in Rural and Underserved Communities for COVID-19 Recovery

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued​ a proposed rule (CMS-1752-P) recently for inpatient and long-term care hospitals that builds on the Biden Administration’s key priorities to close health care equity gaps and provide greater accessibility to care. Major provisions in the proposed rule would fund medical residency positions in hospitals in rural and underserved communities to address workforce shortages, and require hospitals to report COVID-19 vaccination rates among their workers to contain the spread of the virus.

“Hospitals are often the backbone of rural communities – but the COVID-19 pandemic has hit rural hospitals hard, and too many are struggling to stay afloat,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “This rule will give hospitals more relief and additional tools to care for COVID-19 patients and it will also bolster the health care workforce in rural and underserved communities.

Additionally, the rule proposes to update Medicare fee-for-service payment rates and policies for acute care inpatient hospitals and long-term care hospitals for fiscal year 2022. CMS estimates total Medicare spending on acute care inpatient hospital services will increase by about $2.5 billion in fiscal year 2022. 

In November 2020, CMS established the New COVID-19 Treatments Add-on Payment (NCTAP) to mitigate any potential financial disincentives for hospitals to provide new COVID-19 treatments during the PHE. The proposed rule would extend the NCTAP for certain eligible technologies through the end of the fiscal year in which the PHE ends.

In addition, the proposed rule seeks to strengthen the ongoing response to the public health emergency and future health threats by leveraging meaningful measures for quality programs. CMS is proposing the adoption of the COVID-19 Vaccination Coverage among Healthcare Personnel (HCP) Measure to require hospitals to report COVID-19 vaccinations of workers in their facilities. This proposed measure is designed to assess whether hospitals are taking steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 among their workforce, reduce the risk of transmission within their facilities, help sustain the ability of hospitals to continue serving their communities through the public health emergency, and assess the nation’s long-term recovery and readiness efforts.

Additionally, CMS is proposing to require hospitals to report on all four of the following measures: Syndromic​ Surveillance Reporting, Immunization Registry Reporting, Electronic Case Reporting, and Electronic Reportable Laboratory Result Reporting.

For a fact sheet on the proposed rule click here.

The proposed rule can be downloaded from the Federal Register here.

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