Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Wolf Administration Announces Health Reform Plan

Amid the pandemic, rising health care costs and magnified health inequities, Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled a plan that addresses comprehensive health reforms focusing on both physical and behavioral health and promoting affordability, accessibility and value in health care. The three main components of the plan include:

  • Interagency Health Reform Council (IHRC). Established with an executive order the governor signed at the press conference today, the council will be composed of commonwealth agencies involved in health and the governor’s office. The initial goal will be to develop recommendations by Dec. 30 to find efficiencies in the healthcare system by thinking about how to align programs where feasible, including the joint purchasing of medications, aligning value-based purchasing models, and using data across state agencies to promote evidence-based decisions.
  • Regional Accountable Health Councils (RAHCs). The Department of Human Services will add requirements to form five RAHCs across the state into the managed care agreements. RAHCs will be required to collectively develop regional transformation plans–built on community needs assessments–to reduce disparities, address social determinants of health, and align value-based purchasing arrangements.
  • Health Value Commission. The governor will work with the legislature to establish the Health Value Commission, charged with keeping all payors and providers accountable for healthcare cost growth, to provide the long-term affordability and sustainability of our healthcare system, and to promote whole-person care. As proposed, the newly created entity would be led by up to 15 commissioners appointed by the governor and the General Assembly who have an expertise in the healthcare marketplace, including five state agency heads.

Click here to learn more.

Medicare Ambulance Payment Model to Expand Nationwide

Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it will expand the Medicare Prior Authorization Model for Repetitive, Scheduled Non-Emergent Ambulance Transport (RSNAT) nationwide.  This model allows for certain Medicare beneficiaries to ride in ambulances to certain medical appointments, most often for dialysis treatment, when the service is approved in advance. The evaluation found that the model reduces Medicare spending without changing quality or access to care in both rural and non-rural areas.

Reporting Requirements for Provider Relief Funds

This guidance, released last week, informs Provider Relief Fund (PRF) recipients who received payments exceeding $10,000 of the data elements that they must report for calendar years 2019 and 2020 as part of their terms and conditions.  It provides detail on how to report expenses attributable to COVID-19, including general and administrative, health care related, and lost revenue.

Quick Start Guide for Labs to Become Medicare-Certified

For laboratories seeking Medicare Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certification to test for COVID-19, CMS released a guide last week to help with the application process and the expedited review process, including how to submit the form to the correct state agency.  Under the public health emergency, labs have the option to pay CLIA certification fees on the CMS CLIA Program website, and they can start COVID-19 testing before the official paper certificate arrives by postal mail.

New Research on Child Health

A new report from the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics compares 41 indicators of well-being in children by the type of community they live in. (These are metropolitan, nonmetropolitan, micropolitan, or rural, according to the Office of Management and Budget.) The brief finds that infant mortality rates were highest in rural counties (6.8 per 1,000). During the same time, the mortality rate for Hispanic and American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic infants was also higher for those living in rural counties than those living in micropolitan and metropolitan counties. Separately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Mental Health Treatment Among Children Aged 5-17 years, 2019, finding that as the level of urbanization decreased, the percentage of children who had taken medication for their mental health increased.

Registration Now Open for Rural Assembly Everywhere

Registration has officially begun for Rural Assembly Everywhere. You can be one of the first to claim your spot and join us Oct. 26 to 30 for a great lineup of speakers, breakouts and happy hours.

This includes all the keynote speakers we’ve announced so far, such as New York Times bestselling author and journalist Sarah Smarsh, Krista Tippett of The On Being Project, Harvard University political theorist Dr. Danielle Allen, and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

Register today to attend Rural Assembly Everywhere and take part in the conversation, free and from anywhere!

Rural Assembly Everywhere is a virtual festival for the curious and the critical, the listeners and the connectors. It’s geared toward rural allies, neighbors, and admirers. The goal of Rural Assembly Everywhere is to create an experience that will inform, entertain, inspire, and demonstrate how we belong to each other. Learn more and register at