Rural Health Clinics Chartbook
Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) address geographic access barriers for rural Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and, over time, have come to be recognized for their role in serving vulnerable rural populations. Close to 4,200 RHCs serve rural communities in 44 states. Long considered part of the safety net by policymakers and rural advocates, their roles are tied to their location in rural, underserved areas. Despite their long history of serving rural residents, the General Accounting Office, Medicare Payment Advisory Committee, and Office of Inspector General have raised concerns about RHCs’ cost efficiency and whether they serve unmet need for primary care in rural communities. This scrutiny highlights the shortage of readily available and up-to-date information on RHCs, their operations, and the populations they serve. It also reinforces the need for these data to support the RHC program; promote needed reimbursement, regulatory, and policy changes; and target the provision of technical assistance to these important rural primary care providers. Recommendations for updating and improving RHC policies, regulations, and reimbursement rates to support the RHC program have foundered on the lack of data on RHCs. Building on the Maine Rural Health Research Center’s extensive body of work on RHCs and our 2003 RHC Chartbook, this project will produce a descriptive chartbook detailing the characteristics and status of RHCs nationally using available secondary data and assess the feasibility of using secondary data to construct a standard set of indicators for RHCs.