The following Rural Health Clinic Survey and Certification Letter was released updating some CMS guidance relative to staffing.

• Definitions, §491.2 The definition of a “physician” has been revised to include a doctor of dental surgery or dental medicine, a doctor of podiatry or surgical chiropody, or a chiropractor, within the limitations of services these types of physicians are permitted to offer under Section 1861(r) of the Social Security Act. However, it continues to be the case that only MDs or DOs may fulfill the requirements for supervision, collaboration and oversight of non-physician practitioners in an RHC or FQHC.

• Staffing and Staff Responsibilities, §491.8 §491.8(a)(3) was revised to permit an RHC to have a nurse practitioner or physician assistant provide services under contract to the RHC. This increased flexibility does not eliminate the longstanding statutory and regulatory requirement that the RHC must have at least one employee who is a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. This change was effective July 1, 2014. §491.8(a)(6) was revised to require for RHCs that a nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or certified nurse-midwife is available to furnish patient care services at least 50% of the time the RHC operates.

This aligns the regulatory language with the current statutory requirement. Note that since the statutory provision was self-implementing, CMS has enforced the 50% standard even prior to this regulation change. (See S&C 09-14) §491.8(b) has been revised to delete the requirement formerly at §491.8(b)(2) for a physician to be present in the RHC or FQHC at least once every two weeks. This recognizes that many of the physician’s required functions may be performed remotely via electronic means, but does not remove the requirement that a practitioner, whether a physician or non-physician practitioner, must be present at all times the RHC or FQHC operates. Provisions formerly at §491.8(b)(1)(i) – (iii) have been renumbered to be §491.8(b)(1) – (3), but are otherwise the same.

Rural Health Clinic Survey Letter 15-22