Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

HRSA Releases Inaugural Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Oral Health Data Report

HRSA’s HIV/AIDS Bureau this week released the first publication of national data on Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) oral health programs, including: RWHAP Parts A-D oral health services; RWHAP Part F Dental Reimbursement Program and Community-Based Dental Partnership Program; and RWHAP Part F AIDS Education and Training Center training events on oral health care. The inaugural Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Oral Health Data Report, 2017 provides a deeper look at service utilization, demographic, and socioeconomic factors among clients served across RWHAP oral health programs and the characteristics of RWHAP-funded organizations that deliver oral health services. The report also includes information about trainings delivered to oral health providers to treat people with HIV and the providers trained.

View the report (PDF – 1 MB).

Appalachia is Opportunity Zone Leader

Three Appalachian-based community organizations were recently recognized as among the nation’s top ten 20 Opportunity Zone Catalysts as per Forbes Magazine. These  included a partnership between the Opportunity Zone Development Company and the Erie Downtown Development Corporation which has announced two Opportunity Zone Funds poised to invest up to $60 million in Erie, Pennsylvania; Opportunity Alabama which is developing programs to educate communities on policy and social impacts of projects across Alabama’s 158 Opportunity Zones; and Opportunity Appalachia, a newly formed consortium of community development partners with plans to invest in Opportunity Zones in Appalachia’s rural coal impacted communities. With help through ARC’s POWER Initiative, Appalachian Community Capital, the lead organization of Opportunity Appalachia, officially launched the Opportunity Appalachia program to provide technical assistance to communities in Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia to develop community strategies and structure investable transactions targeting Opportunity Fund (QOF) Investors. This program could potentially create an estimated 700 jobs in a variety of industries. More information about the program and pre-registration for upcoming seminars can be found on the Appalachian Community Capital website.

The Opportunity Zone Initiative, approved by Congress and led by the President and his administration, offers tax incentives designed to promote additional private investment in America’s cities and towns. An Opportunity Zone is an economically-distressed census tract where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment. As of July, 2018, 737 census tracts have been designated as Qualified Opportunity Zones across Appalachia. These eligible tracts are home to over 2.8 million Appalachian residents.

As per the recently released Request for Proposals (RFP), applications for POWER 2020 will receive special consideration in the review process if they propose to leverage their POWER award in qualified Opportunity Zones.

2014-2018 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates Released

On December 19, 2019, the American Community Survey 5-Year estimates were released which provide demographic and socio-economic data for all areas regardless of population size. Our brief highlights trends in the 2014-2018 estimates for Pennsylvania counties with a specific focus on the 65 and older population and changes since the 2009-2013 estimates. Some key takeaways include:

  • The percentage of Pennsylvania’s population age 65 and older was 17.4%, significantly higher than in 2009-2013 (15.7%).
  • The percentage of residents age 65 and older significantly increased in all Pennsylvania counties.
  • The labor force participation rate for the population age 75 and older increased in 52 counties.
  • Twenty-two counties had median household incomes for the population age 65 and older above the state median.

Click here to read the full brief.

Judges Rule Individual Mandate is Unconstitutional

On December 18, 2019, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in a 2-1 ruling struck down the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) individual mandate as unconstitutional, but sent a question regarding whether the rest of the ACA can stand without the individual mandate back to a lower court. The ruling means the rest of the ACA remains in place for now, but it creates uncertainty about the law’s future. California Attorney General (AG) Xavier Becerra (D), who is leading Democratic AGs in their effort to defend the ACA in the lawsuit, said he will “move swiftly” to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. (Source: The Hill, 12/18)

NPRM Announced on Importation of Drugs from Canada

On December 18, 2019, President Trump, along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that, if finalized, would allow for the importation of certain prescription drugs from Canada. In addition, the Administration is announcing the availability of a new draft guidance for industry that describes procedures drug manufacturers can follow to facilitate importation of prescription drugs, including biological products, that are FDA-approved, manufactured abroad, authorized for sale in any foreign country, and originally intended for sale in that foreign country.

“Today’s announcement outlines two pathways for the safe importation of certain prescription drugs to help provide safe, effective, more affordable drugs to American patients,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “These are historic actions by HHS and the FDA, and they represent the bold nature of President Trump’s agenda for lowering drug costs. The President has recognized the opportunity to lower costs for American patients through safe importation, and we at HHS and FDA are delivering on that possibility through a safe, commonsense approach.”

HHS Seeking Comments on Organ Procurement Proposed Rule

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today took major steps to increase the availability of organs for the 113,000 Americans on waitlists for lifesaving organ transplants – 20 of whom die each day. As directed by President Trump in his July 10 Executive Order on Advancing American Kidney Health, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is issuing a proposed rule to change the way organ procurement organizations (OPOs) are held accountable for their performance, and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is issuing a proposed rule to remove financial barriers to organ donation.

“Our broken system of procuring organs and supporting kidney donors’ costs thousands of American lives each year,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “President Trump sees kidney disease as a health challenge where we can make a major impact, and his Advancing American Kidney Health initiative, including today’s announcements, will transform the lives of American kidney patients, who have been neglected for too long. Many organ procurement organizations do wonderful work, but some aren’t performing nearly as well as they could. We’re going to stop looking the other way while lives are lost and hold OPOs accountable. On living donations, we’re going to dramatically expand support for living kidney donors, so that Americans who wish to be generous living donors don’t face unnecessary financial barriers to doing so.”

The Trump administration is dedicated to addressing the inefficiencies in our organ procurement system and increasing the number of organs available for transplant to reduce the number of individuals waiting for lifesaving transplants.

Most of the proposed changes would not take effect until 2022. However CMS intends, in the spirit of transparency, to make these outcome measures public during the next four-year OPO recertification cycles once the rule is finalized.

Comments on both proposed rules are due 60 days after the rules’ publication in the Federal Register.

To read the full press release on today’s announcement as well as access fact sheets and the proposed regulations, visit:

CMS Open Enrollment Extension for Plan Year 2020

CMS’s primary goal is to provide a seamless Open Enrollment experience for consumers and ensure that those Americans who want coverage offered through the Exchange can enroll in a plan. In an abundance of caution, to accommodate consumers who attempted to enroll in coverage during the final hours of Open Enrollment but who may have experienced issues, starting at 3:00PM EST today, December 16 we are extending the deadline to sign up for January 1 coverage until 3:00AM EST December 18. This additional time will give consumers the opportunity to come back and complete their enrollment for January 1 coverage. While the website and the call center remained open for business on December 15, with over half a million consumers enrolling throughout the day, some consumers were asked to leave their name at the call center.  Those consumers who have already left their contact information at the call center do not need to come back and apply during this extension because a call center representative will follow up with them later this week.

The Declining Number of Rural Medical Students 

As workforce shortages persist in rural health care, a new study from Health Affairs has identified a sharp decline in the number of medical students with rural backgrounds. Growing up in a rural setting is a strong predictor of a future decision to practice in a rural community, and the decline could mean a worsening in the shortage of physicians in rural areas of the country in the future. Although medical school positions increased by more than 30% from 2002 to 2017, the number of medical students from rural backgrounds decreased by 28%, according to the Health Affairs study. In 2017, only 4.3% of the incoming medical student body was comprised of students with rural backgrounds.