Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Senate Confirms President Biden’s ASH and Surgeon General Nominees

The Senate voted 52-48 to confirm Dr. Rachel Levine as the HHS Assistant Secretary of Health (ASH). She is the first openly transgender federal official ever confirmed by the Senate. In a Daily Yonder op-ed, Brock Slabach, NRHA Senior Vice President of Member Services, explained that, “[Dr. Levine] helped enact a new system for stabilizing revenue for rural hospitals. She’s the right person to serve as [the HHS ASH].” Additionally, the Senate voted 57-43 to confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General, who previously served as Surgeon General in the Obama Administration.

Reps. Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) Introduce the Rural Behavioral Health Access Act

Representatives Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) announced the introduction of their bipartisan bill: The Rural Behavioral Health Access Act. This legislation would ensure that Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) retain important flexibility to provide behavioral health services through telehealth after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. NRHA had the opportunity to host the introduction event for this important piece of legislation yesterday. You can watch the recording of the event featuring Representatives Kildee and Wenstrup here, and you can find the bill one-pager here and the full legislative text here.

Senate Passes Medicare Sequestration Relief and RHC Technical Corrections

The Senate passed H.R. 1868, a bill to provide continued relief from Medicare sequestration and technical corrections to the rural health clinics (RHC) provisions included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), 2021. The measure must go back to the House of Representatives before becoming law due to changes in the text regarding Medicare sequestration. NRHA anticipates the House will take the measure up when they return from recess on April 12, 2021. CMS has said they will not proceed with actions contradictory to the pending legislation in the meantime.

President Biden Issues New Vaccination Goal 

President Biden has doubled the administration’s vaccination goal for the first 100 days in office from 100 million to 200 million doses. This follows the administration meeting the initial goal of 100 million doses after just 58 days in office. About 2.5 million doses are being issued in the U.S. every day.

CMS Releases Updates on RHC Payments 

CMS released this memo on the implementation of updated RHC rates as included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA). The ‘base rate’ for PB RHCs will be the 2020 interim rate if the MAC does not have a final settled cost report. This indicates that the final base rate will be from the final settled 2020 cost report. CMS goes on to say that they plan to discuss more about rates and processes in the 2022 physician fee schedule rule. NRHA will pass along updated information as it becomes available.

AHRQ Toolkit for Managing Sepsis Care

The Agency for Healthcare Research Quality (AHRQ) created this resource specifically for rural clinicians.  The toolkit includes case scenarios, templates, and checklists to improve the quality and safety of managing sepsis, a potentially life-threatening infection.

New: Coverage to Care Telehealth Resources

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released two new resources to support the use of telehealth.  The first educates patients on what to expect during a telehealth visit, and the second supports providers in how to conduct a successful telehealth visit and how to keep up to date on Medicare and Medicaid telehealth payments.  Social media graphics are also available.