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CMS proposes rule to increase price transparency, access to care, safety and health equity

Press releases may be edited for formatting or style | July 20, 2021

Based on information that hospitals have made public this year, there is wide variation in prices – even within the same hospital or the same system, depending on what each insurance plan has negotiated with that hospital. CMS is committed to ensuring consumers have the information they need to make fully informed decisions regarding their health care, since health care prices can cause significant financial burdens for consumers.

Health Equity

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CMS is seeking input on ways to make reporting of health disparities based on social risk factors and race and ethnicity more comprehensive and actionable. This includes soliciting comments on potential collection of data, and analysis and reporting of quality measure results by a variety of demographic data points including, but not limited to, race, Medicare/Medicaid dual eligible status, disability status, LGBTQ+, and socioeconomic status.

Access to Emergency Care in Rural Areas

Since 2010, 138 rural hospitals have closed – disproportionately within communities with a higher proportion of people of color and communities with higher poverty rates. Rural communities experience shorter life expectancy, higher mortality, and have fewer local providers, leading to worse health outcomes than in other communities.

Rural hospital closures deprive people living in rural areas of crucial services, including access to emergency care. To address these concerns, Congress enacted Section 125 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (CAA), which establishes a new provider type for Rural Emergency Hospitals (REHs). REHs will be required to furnish emergency department services and observation care and may provide other outpatient medical and health services as specified by the Secretary through rulemaking. In this proposed rule, CMS is requesting information to inform the development of requirements that would apply to Rural Emergency Hospitals (REHs). This new provider designation will apply to items and services furnished on or after January 1, 2023.

CMS is seeking feedback on a wide-range of issues to help inform policy proposals for the CY 2023 rulemaking cycle, including feedback on the potential services to be provided by REHs; health and safety standards and quality measures to be established for REHs; and payment provisions for this provider type.

COVID-19 Lessons

To incorporate lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, CMS is seeking comment on the extent to which hospitals are using flexibilities offered during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) to provide mental health services remotely and whether CMS should consider changes to account for shifting practice patterns. In addition, CMS is proposing changes to measure how many of our nation's front-line healthcare workers in hospital outpatient departments and ASCs are vaccinated against COVID-19, and to make this information available to the public so consumers know how many workers are vaccinated in different health care settings.

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