Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

A Bipartisan Bill will be Introduced in the U.S. House Soon to Protect 340b Hospitals During the Pandemic

U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) are finalizing bipartisan legislation to provide temporary 340b program requirement flexibilities to hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill will protect hospitals from losing 340b eligibility and waive 340b statutory requirements. Similar legislation sponsored by Sens. John Thune (R-SD), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bob Portman (R-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), S.4160, does not have the 340b hospital waiver. Senators Matsui and Stewart also tried getting the 340b legislation flexibilities passed in the recent HEROES act, but Senate Leaders and the White House are currently negotiating what will be put into the next package. Stewart states that many providers will become ineligible for 340b drug discounts due to the pandemic.

Wicker, Smith Propose Paycheck Protection Program Fix for Rural Hospitals

Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced bipartisan legislation that would waive Small Business Administration (SBA) affiliation rules for rural hospitals. The bill would allow non-profit critical access hospitals and hospitals that serve rural areas to qualify for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans by removing their SBA affiliation status. The CARES Act established the PPP to provide relief to small businesses with fewer than 500 employees in the form of forgivable loans. Currently, however, many small hospitals operate as part of a larger health system that exceeds the 500-employee limit under SBA’s affiliation rules. The bill would remove this restriction and grant rural hospitals access to the PPP program, allowing them to retain critical staff and provide quality care to patients for the duration of the pandemic. Please continue to contact your Members of Congress on behalf of this important legislation!

McConnell is “Very Attuned” but Noncommittal to Proposal to make Critical-Access Status Easier to Obtain for Struggling Rural Hospitals

Rural Health advocates are helping to advance legislation that would allow struggling rural PPS hospitals to qualify to convert to critical-access hospitals, which would be a lifeline for certain hospitals amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In return, hospitals would limit their beds, services, and length of patient stays. This would allow a limited number of hospitals to get critical-access designation, even if they are less than 35 miles from another hospital. McConnell spoke on the proposal Wednesday, saying he is ‘attuned’ to it but did not explicitly commit to the proposal. McConnell referenced the aid rural hospitals received in the first coronavirus relief package, saying rural health is certainly a focus and will continue to be in the next relief bill. We expect the first draft of the next COVID-19 relief package to come next week.

CMS Updates Data on COVID-19 Impacts on Medicare Beneficiaries

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today released its first monthly update of data that provides a snapshot of the impact of COVID-19 on the Medicare population. For the first time, the snapshot includes data for American Indian/Alaskan Native Medicare beneficiaries.

The new data indicate that American Indian/Alaskan Native beneficiaries have the second highest rate of hospitalization for COVID-19 among racial/ethnic groups after Blacks. Previously, the number of hospitalizations of American Indian/Alaskan Native beneficiaries was too low to be reported.

The updated data confirm that the COVID-19 public health emergency is disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations, particularly racial and ethnic minorities. This is due, in part, to the higher rates of chronic health conditions in these populations and issues related to the social determinants of health.

In response to the first Medicare data snapshot and related call to action from CMS Administrator Seema Verma on June 22, the CMS Office of Minority Health hosted three listening sessions with stakeholders who serve and represent racial and ethnic minority Medicare beneficiaries. These sessions provided helpful insight into ways in which CMS can address social risks and other barriers to health care that will help in our efforts to reduce health disparities.

The updated data on COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations of Medicare beneficiaries covers the period from January 1 to June 20, 2020. It is based on Medicare claims and encounter data CMS received by July 17, 2020.

Other key data points:

  • Black beneficiaries continue to be hospitalized at higher rates than other racial and ethnic groups, with 670 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries.
  • Beneficiaries eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid – who often suffer from multiple chronic conditions and have low incomes – were hospitalized at a rate more than 4.5 times higher than beneficiaries with Medicare only (719 versus 153 per 100,000).
  • Beneficiaries with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) continue to be hospitalized at higher rates than other segments of the Medicare population, with 1,911 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries, compared with 241 per 100,000 for aged and 226 per 100,000 for disabled.
  • CMS paid $2.8 billion in Medicare fee-for-service claims for COVID-related hospitalizations, or an average of $25,255 per beneficiary.

For more information on the Medicare COVID-19 data, visit:


For an FAQ on this data release, visit:

Register Today! Telehealth for Community-Based Organizations

Register today for the first of HHS’s three webinars on telehealth for community-based organizations. This webinar will provide an overview of telehealth basics for community-based organizations such as public housing authorities, multi-family housing providers, aging and disability network stakeholders, and other social service providers. The webinar will highlight relevant resources and provide examples of telehealth use and lessons from the field.


This is the first of three planned webinars aimed at helping community based organizations use telehealth more effectively, In August, look for Telehealth Promising Practices and learn how to address difficulties with at-risk and disadvantaged populations. Then in September, return for Addressing Barriers to Access for help overcoming physical constraints and limited service issues.

The webinars will be held on the following dates and times.

  • Webinar #1 — Wednesday, July 29, 2020, 2-3 PM ET
  • Webinar #2 — Wednesday August 26, 2-3 PM EST
  • Webinar #3 — Wednesday September 30, 2-3 PM EST

This program is brought to you by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the HHS Administration for Community Living and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

USDA Launches New Features to Help Farmers Hire Workers

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced new features on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) website designed to help facilitate the employment of H-2A workers.

The primary new H-2A features on include:

  • A real-time dashboard that enables farmers to track the status of their eligible employer application and visa applications for temporary nonimmigrant workers;
  • Streamlining the login information so if a farmer has an existing account they can save multiple applications tracking numbers for quick look-up at any time;
  • Enables easy access to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Foreign Labor Application Gateway (FLAG);
  • Allows farmers to track time-sensitive actions taken in the course of Office of Foreign Labor Certification’s (OFLC) adjudication of temporary labor certification applications;
  • Allowing for farmers to access all application forms on-line.

All information can be found at

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Announces Annual Highway Safety Survey

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is seeking motorists’ input on traffic safety and driving behaviors through its annual online Highway Safety Survey found at

The survey is available on PennDOT’s website through August 17 and should take about five minutes to complete. All responses, including the “comments” fields, are anonymous.

More than 10,000 people responded to last year’s survey. Notably, nearly 91 percent of respondents said they always wear a seat belt and 89 percent said they never drive while impaired. When asked which behaviors distracted them while driving in the last month, only 14 percent of respondents indicated “Using a hand-held cell phone” was a distraction. Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed indicated “Adjusting the radio or climate controls” was a distraction, while 37 percent indicated they were distracted by an object outside of the vehicle.

“Driving is a skill that requires 100 percent of your attention 100 percent of the time, and distractions are everywhere, it’s not just your cell phone,” said Gramian. “Don’t drive distracted.”

For more information on our highway safety efforts, visit

CMS COVID-19 Stakeholder Engagement Calls – July 27th to August 14th

CMS hosts varied recurring stakeholder engagement sessions to share information related to the agency’s response to COVID-19. These sessions are open to members of the healthcare community and are intended to provide updates, share best practices among peers, and offer attendees an opportunity to ask questions of CMS and other subject matter experts.

Call details are below. Conference lines are limited so we highly encourage you to join via audio webcast, either on your computer or smartphone web browser. You are welcome to share this invitation with your colleagues and professional networks. These calls are not intended for the press.

Calls recordings and transcripts are posted on the CMS podcast page at:


CMS COVID-19 Office Hours Calls (Tuesdays at 5:00 – 6:00 PM Eastern)

Office Hour Calls provide an opportunity for hospitals, health systems, and providers to ask questions of agency officials regarding CMS’s temporary actions that empower local hospitals and healthcare systems to:

  • Increase Hospital Capacity – CMS Hospitals Without Walls;
  • Rapidly Expand the Healthcare Workforce;
  • Put Patients Over Paperwork; and
  • Further Promote Telehealth in Medicare

This week’s Office Hours:

Tuesday, July 28th at 5:00 – 6:00 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 1492795

Audio Webcast link:


Additional Office Hours:

Tuesday, August 4th at 5:00 – 6:00 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 3296947

Audio Webcast link:


Tuesday, August 11th at 5:00 – 6:00 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 3498643

Audio Webcast link:


Weekly COVID-19 Care Site-Specific Calls

CMS hosts weekly calls for certain types of organizations to provide targeted updates on the agency’s latest COVID-19 guidance. One to two leaders in the field also share best practices with their peers. There is an opportunity to ask questions of presenters if time allows.

Home Health and Hospice (twice a month on Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern)

Tuesday, August 11th at 3:00 – 3:30 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 5097566 Audio Webcast Link:


Nursing Homes (twice a month on Wednesday at 4:30 PM Eastern)

Wednesday, August 12th 4:30 – 5:00 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 7857618 Audio Webcast Link:


Dialysis Organizations (twice a month on Wednesday at 5:30 PM Eastern)

Wednesday, August 12th at 5:30 – 6:00 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 1027088 Audio Webcast Link:


Nurses (twice a month on Thursdays at 3:00 PM Eastern)

Thursday, August 13th at 3:00 – 3:30 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 7844289 Audio Webcast Link:


Lessons from the Front Lines: COVID-19 (twice a month on Fridays at 12:30 – 2:00 PM Eastern)

Lessons from the Front Lines calls are a joint effort between CMS Administrator Seema Verma, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD, and the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Physicians and other clinicians are invited to share their experience, ideas, strategies, and insights with one another related to their COVID-19 response. There is an opportunity to ask questions of presenters.

This week’s Lessons from the Front Lines:

Friday, August 7th at 12:30 – 2:00 PM Eastern

Toll Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 4695240

Audio Webcast Link:


For the most current information including call schedule changes, please click here

To keep up with the important work the White House Task Force is doing in response to COVID-19 click here: For information specific to CMS, please visit the Current Emergencies Website.

EPA Provides Consumers Additional Options for COVID-19 Disinfectants

EPA has approved more than 460 products that are helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added 32 new surface disinfectants to List N, the agency’s list of products expected to kill SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“Since day one, EPA’s priority has been to provide the public with easy access to the information they need to protect themselves and their families from the virus that causes COVID-19,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Through our efforts to expand List N, we are ensuring that Americans have a broad set of approved products to clean and disinfect surfaces to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.”

Disinfectants can qualify for inclusion on List N three ways:

  1. The product has been tested against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).
  2. The product has demonstrated efficacy against a different coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).
  3. The product has demonstrated efficacy against a pathogen that is harder to kill than SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).

EPA has added 32 new products to List-N. These products have already been approved as tuberculocidal. While they have not yet been tested against SARS-CoV-2, they are approved for killing the pathogen that causes tuberculosis and are expected to kill SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) when used according to the label (category three noted above).

Many tuberculocidal products are potent disinfectants and have a long history of use for cleaning hospitals and other health care settings. When using such products, it is critical to follow the label directions, including the precautionary statements.

Disinfectant products may be marketed and sold under multiple different brand and product names. Therefore, List N users should use the first two sections of a product’s registration number when searching List N, rather than its brand name. For example, if EPA Reg. No. 12345-12 is on List N, you can buy EPA Reg. No. 12345-12-2567 and know you’re getting an equivalent product. For more information on using an EPA registration number to search List N, see our FAQ at

Throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency, EPA has provided the American public with information on disinfecting surfaces against SARS-CoV-2. For more information about EPA’s response to COVID-19 visit:

ADA 30th Anniversary: Bringing Attention to Health Equity for People with Disabilities

ADA 30th Anniversary: Bringing Attention to Health Equity for People with Disabilities

In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Medicare-Medicaid Coordination Office (MMCO) is sharing messages and materials on supporting equal opportunities and inclusion for people with disabilities, many of whom are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.

On July 26, 1990 the ADA was enacted to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life (work, school, employment, transportation). Join us in recognizing this observance and use this anniversary to bring attention to health equity for people with disabilities.

Disability-Competent Care

Disability-competent care (DCC) is an aspirational, participant-centered model that focuses on the eventual goal of supporting individuals to achieve maximum function. The DCC model is delivered by an interdisciplinary team (IDT) whom recognizes and treats each individual as a unique person, not their diagnosis or condition. The model encourages participant direction in choices regarding their health, wellness, and life in the community.

For more information, visit the Resources for Integrated Care website.

Resources for People with Disabilities

  • Download From Coverage to Care COVID-19 Resources to learn how to protect yourself during COVID-19, including information about health services typically covered under Medicare and Marketplace plans, as well as tips for getting the care you need at home.
  • Download and share Getting the Care You Need: A Guide for People with Disabilities to help people with disabilities understand their rights around accessing medical services. The guide includes a checklist to help you get the care you need before, during, and after your appointment. It is also available in Spanish, with more languages coming soon. To request a physical copy in Braille, please contact CMS at
  • Visit the “I have a disability page to find and share information about Medicare plans, benefits, and protections for people with disabilities

Resources for Health Care Professionals

Visit Celebrating 30 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act for more information.