Assisting Rural Health Clinics serving rural and underserved residents
Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) care for Medicaid, Medicare, uninsured, and self-pay, many of which receive care at the RHC for free or at a reduced cost to the patient. RHCs are an important piece of South Carolina’s safety-net for the uninsured and underinsured and nationally are increasingly becoming recognized as a source of care for vulnerable populations. The SC Office of Rural Health staff provides technical expertise and guidance to the 100 Rural Health Clinics in our state.
Brief Description of SC Rural Health Clinics
Per federal regulations, RHCs must be located in a rural or non-urbanized area (population under 50,000) and serve a population that is in either a Medically Underserved Area (MUA), Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), or Governor Designated Shortage Area. The overwhelming majority of RHCs in South Carolina are small entities that see a large percentage of Medicare and Medicaid patients. A mid-level provider such as a nurse practitioner or physician assistant is required at least 50% of the time the RHC is open.
Rural Health Clinics are required to provide services to patients as noted in the list below. Services beyond this are offered at the discretion of the individual RHC.
1. Primary Health Care Services – the treatment of acute or chronic medical problems which usually bring a patient to a physician’s office.
2. Basic Lab Services – Chemical examination of urine by stick or tablet; hemoglobin or hematocrit; blood sugar; examination of stool specimens for occult blood; pregnancy tests and primary cultures for transmittal to a certified lab
3. Emergency Care Services – RHCs are required to provide medical emergency procedures as a first response to common life threatening injuries and acute illnesses.
4. After Hours Coverage – There are no specific requirements for an RHC to directly provide on call coverage, although the RHC must make arrangements for access to care, i.e. referral to a hospital.
5. Hospital/Specialty Care – RHCs must either provide or have arrangements with other health care providers to furnish inpatient hospital services and specialty care.
Rural Health Clinic Services
The SC Office of Rural Health strives to meet the pressing needs of Rural Health Clinics. Contact the RHC staff to determine how the SC Office of Rural Health can assist you in caring more effectively for the rural and underserved population that you serve.
Below are a list of current services provided at no or minimal cost.
• Assist providers considering converting to a Rural Health Clinic from initial application to final approval from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
• Help financially strapped rural practices become and stay Rural Health Clinics through RHC designation
• Furnish targeted technical assistance for Rural Health Clinic compliance
• Monitor rural policy issues and keep apprised of changes affecting Rural Health Clinics
• Recruit new primary care providers, including nurse practitioners and physician assistants
• Facilitate low interest loans for equipment, renovations, and construction
• Sponsor workshops and on-site visits to Rural Health Clinics based on need
Shannon N. Chambers, CPC, CRCA
Director of Provider Solutions
803-454-3850, Ext. 2058