Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Health Alert on Additional Factors to Determine Close Contacts of Persons with COVID-19

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) released Health Alert 533 – 10/26/20 – ADV – Additional Factors to Determine Close Contacts of Persons with COVID-19. This Health Advisory provides recommendations and considerations for determining close contacts to people with SARS-CoV-2 infection. DOH provides this guidance based on available information about COVID-19 and it is subject to change. Click here to access all of the 2020 Health Alerts, Advisories and Updates.

CMS Telehealth Services Expansion

On Oct. 14, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced expansion of the list of telehealth services that Medicare will reimburse at fee-for-service levels during the public health emergency (PHE). To further this goal, there is increased support for state Medicaid/CHIP agencies, including this CMS State Medicaid and CHIP Telehealth Toolkit. CMS guidance related to distant site telehealth services at FQHCs states any service approved under the Physician Fee Schedule can be furnished by any health care practitioner working within their scope of practice and delivered from any location. Payment to FQHCs for a distant site telehealth service is set at $92. See FQHC/RHC-specific guidance from CMS on telehealth coverage during the PHE here.

State Begins Distribution of COVID-19 Rapid Tests

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) has shared that states are now receiving the Abbott BinaxNOW antigen test cards and PA DOH would like to distribute some of these cards to any FQHCs who are interested and currently have a CLIA certificate. For more on this rapid test, see Pennsylvania Health Alert 532 – 10/08/20 – ADV – Point of Care Antigen Test Use and Interpretation or review the Abbott training toolkit. According to DOH, the tests demonstrate a 98% accuracy for positives and have about a 30% false negative rate. There is no cost to providers or patients for the tests. The form to order the test cards can be accessed here: Health Care Rapid Antigen Tests. DOH is processing the requests already received by region based on rates of positivity in the region.

House & Senate Go on Recess Despite No New COVID-19 Relief 

The Senate adjourned and began their October Recess, despite the lack of a new COVID-19 relief package. Their recess is expected to last until November 9th. With the House also in recess until Nov. 16th, it is unlikely that another COVID-19 relief bill will pass soon. Yet, rural providers and patients across the country are in dire need of relief. Some rural counties are experiencing their greatest spikes in COVID-19 cases to date, and rural hospital beds are filling quickly, while the rural health workforce is being stretched thin.

NRHA 340B Update 

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) tweeted that he and Joni Ernst (R-IA) talked with top HHS officials about the 340B Drug Pricing Program and its importance to rural providers. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Senator Grassley explained the unique support the drug discounts bring to rural safety-net providers, especially during the pandemic. NRHA is hopeful that after election there will be an appetite for Congress to provide HHS with the tools they need to rein in these ongoing, unwarranted attacks from pharmaceutical manufacturers.

HHS Expands Relief Fund Eligibility and Updates Reporting Requirements 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document regarding the Provider Relief Fund (PRF). Additionally, last week, HHS expanded the types of providers that are eligible for Phase 3 of the PRF to include behavioral health providers and residential treatment facilities, physician assistants and advanced practice nursing providers, and oral health providers, amongst others. Providers may submit applications until November 6, 2020. NRHA is analyzing the updated FAQ document to understand if there are outstanding questions HHS needs to answer.

Preparing for a Community Surge in COVID-19 Cases

This web portal, housed on the Rural Health Information Hub, aims to provide the most up-to-date and critical resources for rural health care systems preparing for and responding to a COVID-19 surge.  It was developed by the COVID-19 Healthcare Resilience Working Group, a partnership with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and other federal agencies to support health care delivery during the pandemic.