Funds available for critical-access hospitals, rural health-care providers through new federal program

Critical-access hospitals, physician-owned organizations and rural health-care providers are now eligible for federal funds that will help them implement necessary infrastructure and information-technology systems, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week. The goal of the program, called the Advanced Payment Model, is to encourage participation in accountable care, one of the cornerstones of the health-care reform law.

Eligible participants must be either accountable care organizations “that do not include any inpatients facilities and have less than $50 million in total annual revenue,” or ACOs in which inpatient facilities are critical access hospitals and/or Medicare low-volume rural hospitals and have less than $80 million in annual revenue, reports Karen Cheung in Fierce Healthcare.

An accountable care organization is a network of physicians and hospitals that share the responsibility to care for a group of patients. The organization’s payment is tied to achieving health-care quality goals and outcomes. While ACOs are being heavily promoted in the new health care system, they were recently likened to “unicorns” because “no one has ever seen one,” said William Hazel, Virginia secretary for Health and Human Resources, at the 2011 Howard L. Bost Memorial Health Policy Forum in Somerset. (Read more)

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