Wilger says there are also several questions about the methodology that is being used as the foundation for the definition. "Currently, you will see that it is still based on the 2000 census data, not 2010 and that not all 50 states are incorporated. It's still lacking Hawaii and Alaska," she says. "We wonder how often the data sets are going to be refreshed."
A preliminary review of federal data earlier this year found that there was no frontier or remote data available for at least 130 ZIP Codes in New Mexico. "We're not sure why. Maybe they are still loading the data into their data set," Wilger says. "This ran several months ago so we don't want to alarm people but we have to go back and rerun it based on what they have now on their website."
Wilger says NCFC, the National Association for Rural Health, and the National Organization for State Offices of Rural Health are in the midst of their review of the FAR definition and are planning a webinar next month for providers. Interested readers should check their websites for scheduling updates.
In the meantime, as long as there are more questions than answers about the proposed FAR definition, Wilger says it's imperative that rural providers defend their turf. "We don't want to water down the few resources that are available to rural, frontier and very remote healthcare service providers," she says. "They are already dealing with really sparse resources and unique challenges."