Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

UDS 2020 Reporting Period Opens January 1

The Uniform Data System (UDS) reporting period for 2020 begins on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021 and extends through Feb. 15, 2021. Upon successful submission, HRSA will assign your UDS report to a UDS reviewer who will work with you to finalize your data submission. The 2020 UDS Manual includes detailed instructions for completing each of the tables and appendices, as well as information on how to submit the UDS through EHBs. The Manual and other UDS reporting resources are available on HRSA’s UDS Resources webpage. The UDS Training website may also assist you in reporting. Direct any electronic reporting questions to Health Center Program Support online or by phone: 877-464-4772, 7:00 am to 8:00 pm, Monday-Friday (except federal holidays). Direct all UDS content questions to the UDS Support Center: 866-UDS-HELP (866-837-4357) or

HHS Proposes Big Changes to HIPAA

The federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) has proposed sweeping changes to HIPAA to remove barriers to value-based care, give patients more control over their data and support contact tracing. Plans and providers could use health data much more broadly if it is for care coordination and case management. The proposed changes would also make it easier to do contact tracing for COVID-19, loosening the rules about disclosing information during emergencies, facilitating greater coordination among health companies and family and caregiver involvement. Learn more.

Pennsylvania Health Department Says Demographics Are Key Part of Laboratory Submission Forms

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) published a new Health Alert Update. DOH continues to identify many laboratory test results submitted without key variables including patient date of birth, address, and telephone number. These demographic fields are essential for correct jurisdiction assignment and for the timely initiation of case investigations, particularly related to COVID-19 exposures. Providers should always include patient name, date of birth, address, telephone number, and race and ethnicity information when completing the laboratory submission/requisition form for patients. If this information is not included on the laboratory submission/requisition form, the ordering facility should enter these demographic elements into PA-NEDSS as mandated under PA Code, Title 28, Chapter 27. Click here to access all of the 2020 health advisories, alerts, and updates.

COVID-19 Public Testing Information

The Pennsylvania Department of Health updated its website with information on the COVID-19 public testing information. Beginning Sunday, Dec. 27, drive-thru and indoor walk-in testing clinics will be held in the following counties: Clearfield and Juniata. Beginning Sunday, Dec. 27, drive-thru testing clinics will be held in the following counties: Beaver, Potter, and Schuylkill. No appointment is necessary. Testing is on a first-come, first-serve basis and is completely free to all patients. Patients must be ages three and older and are not required to show symptoms of COVID-19 in order to be tested. Up to 450 patients can be tested per day. Mid-nasal passage swab PCR tests will be performed. Patients are encouraged to bring a photo-ID or insurance card. Registration will also be completed on-site. The turnaround time for testing results is two to seven days after testing.

Pennsylvania Publishes COVID-19 Treatment Drugs and Biologics FAQs

The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Dec. 24 published COVID-19 and Treatment Drugs and Biologics Frequently Asked Questions. For a product to be widely used to treat COVID-19, it must either be licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or have received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). A product that has received an EUA is considered investigational, meaning that studies using the treatment are ongoing. While the product has been reviewed and can be used to treat persons with COVID-19, it is not licensed by the FDA. The term investigational is different from experimental. Experimental refers to treatments provided as part of a defined clinical trial. The FAQs provide information about drugs and biologics that have either been authorized under an EUA or licensed by the FDA. The document is separated by some introductory questions and then by the name of the drug or biologic to provide more detailed information. Substantive changes are shown in red font.

Analyzing Changes in Employment During the COVID-19 Recession by Education, Race, Ethnicity, and Gender

The current recession has had a disproportionate impact on lower-wage jobs and the workers who hold them. Because workers of color and women are overrepresented in the nation’s lower-wage economy, this recession has the potential to impact some groups of workers more severely than others.

Focusing on Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, this new research explores recent changes in employment by residents’ education, race, ethnicity, and gender. Overall, the employment rate — or the share of working-age residents employed — fell by roughly 8 percentage points between May 2019–October 2019 and the same period in 2020, from 76.5 percent to 68.4 percent. Employment rate declines approached or exceeded 20 percentage points for three groups of workers with no more than a high school diploma: Black men, Black women, and Hispanic women. White men, regardless of their educational attainment, experienced much more modest declines, as did both Hispanic men and White women with at least some college education. The underlying drivers of these uneven outcomes, including the potential roles played by occupational segregation, labor market discrimination, and access to affordable, high-quality childcare, should be explored in order to ensure the economic recovery is not only full but also equitable.

This report is the latest in our Equity in Recovery series, which looks at the workers, small businesses, and places most affected by economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For additional resources on COVID-19 and the economy, visit our website.

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Signs Order Directing Vaccine Access for Health Care Personnel

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine today signed an order directing that a percentage of all vaccine distributions to hospitals, health systems, federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and pharmacies be designated for health care personnel within Phase 1A, including those health care personnel working in Emergency Medical Services, that are not affiliated with a hospital or health system. This order goes into effect January 6, 2021.

“Getting Pennsylvanians immunized with a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is an essential step in reducing the number of virus-related cases, hospitalizations and deaths, including all those who continue to take care of us,” Dr. Levine said. “There are nearly one million health care personnel across the commonwealth who work directly or indirectly with patients and are eligible for vaccine initially. The department will continue to follow and update our COVID-19 interim vaccination plan to address how and when all Pennsylvanians can receive their vaccine.”

Health care personnel are defined by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices as paid and unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials. This may include, but is not limited to, emergency medical service personnel, nurses, nursing assistants, physicians, technicians, therapists, phlebotomists, pharmacists, students and trainees, direct support professionals, clinical personnel in school settings or correctional facilities, contractual staff not employed by the health care facility, and persons (e.g., clerical, dietary, environmental services, laundry, security, maintenance, engineering and facilities management, administrative, billing, and volunteer personnel) not directly involved in patient care but potentially exposed to infectious agents that can be transmitted among from health care personnel and patients.

Interested health care personnel not affiliated with a hospital or health system should take the following steps to ensure they can receive the vaccine:

  • Review the COVID-19 interim vaccination plan, including Phase 1A sub-prioritization guidance;
  • Talk with their employer to identify which type of enrolled COVID-19 vaccine provider is most appropriate;
  • Find a participating location if their employer does not assign one;
  • Be patient with providers;
  • Schedule full vaccine regimen; and
  • Provide necessary documentation when being vaccinated.

This order requires providers to designate at least 10 percent of each vaccine shipment received for vaccination of Phase 1A non-hospital affiliated health care personnel.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed as outlined in Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Interim Vaccination Plan.There are three phases to vaccinate residents across the commonwealth. The first phase is broken out into three parts starting with 1A for all health care personnel and those working and living in long-term care facilities.

“The vaccination process will take time. We need Pennsylvanians, including health care personnel to be patient as we continue to get the vaccine into the hands of the right people at the right time so we can protect against COVID-19,” Dr. Levine said. “We appreciate the work of our health systems, hospitals, FQHCs and pharmacies for their partnership on this effort to ensure all health care personnel can receive the vaccine. We are hopeful as we move forward, additional vaccines trials will be completed and receive an Emergency Use Authorization, enhancing the number of vaccines we receive.”

You can find more information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, guidance and fact sheets for health care personnel and enrolled providers related to this order and the COVID-19 Interim Vaccination Plan at the Department of Health’s website here.


HHS Releases Advisory Opinion Clarifying that 340B Discounts Apply to Contract Pharmacies

The HHS Office of the General Counsel released an advisory opinion concluding that drug manufacturers are required to deliver discounts under the 340B Drug Pricing Program (340B Program) on covered outpatient drugs when contract pharmacies are acting as agents of 340B covered entities.

The 340B Program requires drug manufacturers (in exchange for coverage of drugs under Medicaid) to offer substantial discounts to “covered entities,” which include safety net hospitals, community health centers, and other institutions that serve vulnerable populations. Estimates suggest that discounts in the 340B Program can range between 25 and 50 percent and that approximately $30 billion of drugs are sold to covered entities each year, representing almost 6 percent of prescription drugs sold in the United States.

HHS has become aware of drug manufacturers refusing to provide 340B discounts to covered entities when covered entities order the drugs themselves but then have the drug physically delivered to patients through “contract pharmacies.” Through the new advisory opinion, HHS has clarified that drug manufacturers must provide 340B discounts when a contract pharmacy is acting as an agent of a covered entity, providing services on behalf of the covered entity.

“President Trump has been steadfastly devoted to lowering drug prices for American patients, and that includes ensuring that drug companies are offering the discounts they’re legally required to give to providers that serve the vulnerable,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “Whether it’s making sure 340B discounts are passed on to patients or ensuring that drug companies are delivering these discounts in the first place, we’ve ensured that the deep discounts offered under 340B are helping the vulnerable populations the program was set up to benefit.”

Although advisory opinions do not carry the force of law, they set out the agency’s current views on issues. Those views may be reflected in the various regulatory, enforcement, and oversight powers the federal government has to run the 340B Program.

Read the advisory opinion here: