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HHS to Give $32 Million for Rural Healthcare Access

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, August 24, 2010

More than $22 million will go to the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program, which supports improvements in healthcare quality for any of 1,300 critical access hospitals, defined as hospitals with no more than 25 beds.

To improve access to healthcare for rural Americans, the U.S. Health and Human Services Administration Monday announced $32 million in FY 2010 funds to "strengthen partnerships among rural health providers," according to the agency's administrator, Mary Wakefield.

Added HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: "These funds reflect the priorities spelled out by President Obama in providing the best healthcare possible to rural Americans. "The ultimate goal is to build healthier rural populations and communities."

The funding, administered by the Office of Rural Health Policy, 
will be divided among these seven rural programs:

  • More than $22 million for the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program, which supports improvements in healthcare quality for any of 1,300 critical access hospitals, defined as hospitals with no more than 25 beds. The money would help improve the hospitals' financial and operating performance, and develop collaborative regional and local delivery systems.
  • More than $3 million for the Rural Health Workforce Development Program, a pilot. This portion of the funding will improve recruitment and retention of emerging health professionals, specifically primary care providers and allied health professional and medical school residents.  Medical, dental, behavioral, nursing, pharmacy and other health professionals are eligible.
  •  More than $2 million for the Telehealth Network Grant Program, which helps develop sustainable communications networks that allow patients to receive care from specialists without requiring that either travel long distances.

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