Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Comments Requested: Bipartisan Policy Center Rural Health Task Force

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) has launched a Rural Health Task Force of leaders to develop and promote a rural health agenda. The task force will develop policy recommendations to: 1. Shore up the current rural health care system, including transforming critical access hospitals, small rural clinics, and rural hospitals to meet community needs; 2. Address barriers and opportunities for rural participation in new delivery models; and 3. Build on successful rural workforce and graduate medical education proposals. The BPC is encouraging public comments for solutions in these three areas, as well as other ideas that support reforming America’s rural healthcare system. Commentators may email policy ideas to  Click here for more information.  Comments are due on September 7, 2019.

Comments Requested: Rural Access to Health Care Services

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) seeks information from the public about measuring access to health care in rural communities. This Request for Information (RFI) supports the ongoing work of the HHS Rural Health Task Force that is seeking to identify the needs of rural communities, how to meet those needs, and what HHS policy changes can address those needs. Questions for public comment specific to rural communities include: what are the core health care services needed, what types and numbers of health care professionals are needed, what factors are important to identify core health services, and how should access to health care services be measured. People in rural communities face a range of health disparities, including greater obesity and disease burden in children and adults, higher mortality rates, and shorter life expectancy. Rural areas also have fewer health professionals per person compared to urban areas.  Click here to access the RFI.  Comments are due on October 9, 2019.

ACA Has Reduced Racial Disparities in Health Care

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has not only spurred a decline in uninsured rates across all U.S. racial and ethnic groups, it’s also reduced disparities in coverage, according to a new Commonwealth Fund analysis published this week. Researchers found that the coverage gap between blacks and whites declined from 11.0 percentage points in 2013 to 5.3 percentage points in 2017. The gap between Hispanics and whites, meanwhile, dropped from 25.4 points to 16.6 points. While disparities in coverage shrank both in states that expanded Medicaid and in those that did not, the reduction was greater in the expansion states, according to the study authors. Read more.

State Selects Vendor as State-Based Exchange Navigator

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department (PID) has selected the Pennsylvania Association for Community Health Centers (PACHC) as the Navigator for the state-based exchange (SBE) that the state is developing. The SBE will take the place of the commonwealth’s current reliance on the federal Marketplace for Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage. Full transition to the SBE is targeted for January 2021. This selection and accompanying funding will allow PACHC to continue and build on the hub and spoke enrollment assistance model we developed for individuals interested in Marketplace coverage. This includes monthly health center-based enrollment assister peer network calls, a dedicated outreach and enrollment track at our Annual Conference, trend analysis, intervention and outreach.

Free Lyme Testing for Un- and Underinsured in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) has increased lab capacity for Lyme disease testing in the Bureau of Laboratories and is now offering this testing free of charge for persons who are uninsured or underinsured. DOH has issued Lyme Serology Test Specimen Collection and Submission Guidance outlining the collection and testing procedures. Test methods offered at the Bureau of Laboratories are:   1) EIA for qualitative detection of IgG and IgM class antibodies to VlsE1 and pepC10 antigens from Borrelia burgdorferi in human serum; and 2) Western Blot for the confirmation of IgG and IgM antibodies – positive ELISA will automatically reflex. See document for complete instructions.

2019 Effectuated Enrollment Snapshot

As of March 15, 2019, 10.6 million consumers in the nation had effectuated coverage through the health insurance exchanges for February 2019. This means consumers paid their first month’s premium. This number represents approximately 92% of consumers who made plan selections during the 2019 Open Enrollment Period (11.4 million). The average total monthly premium for enrollees nationwide in February 2019 was $594.17, a decrease of one percent from the February 2018 average premium of $597.20. Approximately 9.3 million, or 87% of Exchange enrollees in February 2019 received Advance Premium Tax Credits (APTC), consistent with the percentage of enrollees who received APTC in February 2018. The average monthly amount of APTC per enrollee receiving APTC fell by approximately 1% from February 2018, to $514.01. To view Pennsylvania specific data, click here.

NIH Poised to Share Data with “All of Us” Participants

The nearly 200,000 Americans to date who have trusted federal scientists with their DNA, their medical records, and detailed behavioral surveys will soon begin to receive the results of a genetic analysis performed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the agency announced Wednesday. The announcement marks a long-touted milestone for the NIH’s unprecedented “All of Us” precision medicine project. To date, researchers say, no government study has returned individualized genetic data to participants – especially a group so large and diverse. The data will provide participants a deeper look into their own ancestry and genetic traits, their genetic predisposition to certain diseases, and, potentially, genetic factors that could impact the effectiveness of prescription drugs. NIH will also offer a more in-depth genetic counseling service to all study participants and urge it for those who have a genetic factor that could impact their health care. The pilot program is also unprecedented in its inclusiveness: 51% of participants to date come from historically marginalized racial and ethnic backgrounds. Representatives of All of Us will be in attendance at the PACHC Annual Conference & Clinical Summit in October for those who want to learn more or participate.

CDC Reports 1 in 7 Diabetics Ration Medicine Due to Cost

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data this week that finds that one in seven individuals with diabetes did not take their medication as prescribed because of the cost. The survey found that 13.2% of diabetics either skipped a dose, took less medicine or delayed filling a prescription because of cost. The high cost of insulin has been at the epicenter of discussions on how to make prescription drugs more affordable in the U.S.

$10 Million Grant Aimed at Getting Pennsylvania Hospitals to Work Together on Opioid Crisis

The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania has launched a two-year effort aimed at getting hospitals across the state to adopt evidence-based best practices to get patients on the road to recovery. The “Opioid Learning Action Network” is underwritten by a $10 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charity run by former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg. It’s focused on finding frontline solutions that hospitals can use to fight the epidemic, rather than tackling the public policy issues that are also part of the debate. Experts from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will assist officials and physicians from about 100 hospitals statewide in the initiative, organizers said in a statement.

Telehealth Resource Centers Offer Free Help

One way to address clinician shortages is through the use of telehealth. If you’re starting a telehealth program and need support, or if you already have a telehealth program and want to improve it, you can turn to Telehealth Resource Centers to help. They provide free technical assistance to all HRSA grantees, including Health Center Program grantees. The HRSA Federal Office of Rural Health Policy funds these centers. Check out the website for the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers or go directly to the resource center for Pennsylvania, the Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center. It is important to note that currently in Pennsylvania, the only telehealth service health centers can bill for is telepsychiatry.