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CMS Rural Community Hospital Demo Program Expands in Maine

Cora Nucci, for HealthLeaders Media, March 9, 2011

Deep within the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act there is a mandate that extends the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Program for an additional five years beyond its 2010 expiration date. The objective of the program is to increase the capability of the selected rural hospitals to meet the needs of their service areas.

And while being selected to participate in the federal program is seen as a boon to the bottom line, its real rewards may not come entirely in the form of direct reimbursements, nor may they come immediately. Let's take a look.

This week we learn that four hospitals in Maine have been selected to participate in the demo. They are: Inland Hospital in Waterville, Maine Coast Memorial Hospital in Ellsworth, Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta, and Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington.

CMS reports that since the program began in 2004, all hospitals participating during the first two years benefitted financially, albeit within a wide range of variation. I don't like to be the ant at the picnic, but a couple of the observations from the first years of the project come as no surprise:

  • Problems with physician recruitment and retention were ubiquitous. On-call rotations for hospital inpatient coverage were especially challenging.
  • Expenses related to capital improvements and major equipment purchases pose a continuing challenge for all demonstration hospitals.

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