Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility (Flex) Program

What is the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility (Flex) Program?

The Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility (Flex) program is a federally funded program that improves and sustains access to critical access hospitals (CAHs), clinics, emergency medical services (EMS), and health professionals in rural areas. This program was established by the Balanced Budget Act (BBA) in 1997.

Some of the roles that the Flex program oversees include:

  • Supporting the conversion of small rural hospitals into CAHs
  • Strengthening and further integrating EMS in rural areas
  • Assisting in the development and maintenance of quality healthcare network systems
  • Facilitating the development of community-based collaborative systems in rural areas

The Flex program supports CAHs by:

Why is the Flex Program important to healthcare?

The ultimate goal of the Flex program is to promote quality and performance improvement, equating to better patient care and outcomes for those who live in rural areas. On a broader scale, the Flex program improves rural healthcare quality in general.

Additionally, the Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project works under the Flex Program to further improve the quality of care provided by CAHs. Through this project, CAHs voluntarily report measures not required by CMS, and states then coordinate assistance based on the needs of hospitals within their state.