UPDATE: HHS Initial Plan for Rural Health Distribution Does NOT Include All RHCs
Last Friday, NARHC Executive Director Bill Finerfrock participated in a phone call with Deputy Secretary Hargan regarding the $10 billion rural provider relief allocation. After this call, we published a brief news article about the allocation. However, we are now learning that some of the details initially communicated to NARHC were inaccurate. HHS reached out to us today to correct the record.
First, only RHCs who had a Medicare CCN number as of December 17th will be included in this rural provider relief allocation. We do not believe this is fair and NARHC is working with CMS to overcome the technical challenges of identifying newly-established RHCs. There will always be a cutoff date of some sort so we cannot guarantee everyone will get funds, but we believe that we can find responsible ways of including RHCs who received their CCN number well after December 17th.
Second, RHCs owned by urban hospitals will not receive any funds from this allocation. We were told that this only applies to RHCs owned by metropolitan hospitals with a RUCA (Rural Urban Commuting Area) code of less than four. Regardless of what the definition of “urban” hospital is, we do not find this policy acceptable, and we have identified ways in which HHS can allocate money to these RHCs.
We understand that RHCs in the groups mentioned above, will be disappointed by today’s news. However, NARHC is working with HHS to overcome the technical difficulties that led to the exclusion of these RHCs. We strongly believe that this money should be distributed to the most inclusive range of RHCs possible and that these omissions can and must be fixed.
There is a significant amount of unobligated money in the provider relief fund, and we believe that some of this must be used to make this allocation fair for all RHCs.
Furthermore, NARHC will continue to publish information as soon as it is communicated to us by HHS officials. Due to the fast-moving nature of the COVID-19 crisis and ensuing policy result, it can be difficult to square every new piece of information with the last, and communications breakdowns may occur. While we would like to have the formula and details of the rural provider relief allocation made public, it is unclear how much information HHS will publish.