Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Will the Pandemic Change Oral Health Forever?

The numbers are staggering.  The — State of Oral Health Equity in America 2021 — revealed that 6 million adults had lost their dental insurance because of the pandemic, and more than 1 in 10 had delayed getting care because of cost, lack of insurance, fear of exposure to the virus, or a combination of those factors.

An article highlighting that research and discussing whether the pandemic will change oral health forever appeared in The New York Times Magazine on Wednesday. Can the rise of teledentistry and other innovations help fix some of the disparities in care?

Click here to access the article.

COVID-19 Vaccine Resources: What Partners Need to Know Now

As COVID-19 vaccines continue rolling out across the country, CMS is taking action to protect the health and safety of our nation’s patients and providers and keeping you updated on the latest COVID-19 resources from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

With information coming from many different sources, CMS has summarized resources and materials to help you communicate with the people that you serve. You can find these and more resources on the COVID-19 Partner Resources Page and the HHS COVID Education Campaign page. We look forward to working with you to encourage our beneficiaries and consumers to get vaccinated. For more information, visit the CMS COVID-19 Policies and Guidance page.

Long-Term Care Community Champions – Voices from the Front Lines

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, staff in nursing homes have been providing ongoing care to our nation’s most vulnerable. CMS has released videos with long-term care staff who moved from being initially uncertain about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine to accepting it, and encouraging their peers to do the same. The videos are available here:

New Medicare COVID-19 Vaccine Campaign

CMS recently launched the Be Next Campaign to encourage Medicare beneficiaries to get the COVID-19 vaccine with the theme: You don’t have to be first to get the vaccine. But, now it’s time for you to Be Next. New resources including videos and social media content can be found here:

Resources for Parents of Adolescents and Teens

Now that the CDC has recommended approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for use in adolescents age 12 to 15, NEW resources are available below to engage parents and talk to them about the vaccine: – Making it Easier to Find Vaccines

Visit, text GETVAX (438829), or call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline at 1-800-232-023 to search and find a vaccine near you.

Visit (Spanish), VACUNA (822862) for Spanish to receive three vaccine sites on your phone within seconds.


Join the We Can Do This Community Corps: Help in the fight against COVID-19 by encouraging family, friends, and your community to get vaccinated. Join the Community Corps to get tips, tools and resources to share.  See

For more information on CMS COVID-19 Partner Updates, please contact us:

COVID-19 Vaccination Rates in Rural Areas

The CDC published a study of the comparative COVID-19 vaccination rates in rural and urban areas in the latest edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).  The full report can be accessed

What is already known about this topic?

Residents of rural communities are at increased risk for severe COVID-19–associated morbidity and mortality. In September 2020, COVID-19 incidence (cases per 100,000 population) in rural counties surpassed that in urban counties.

What is added by this report?

COVID-19 vaccination coverage was lower in rural counties (38.9%) than in urban counties (45.7%); disparities persisted among age groups and by sex.

What are the implications for public health practice?

Disparities in COVID-19 vaccination access and coverage between urban and rural communities can hinder progress toward ending the pandemic. Public health practitioners should collaborate with health care providers, pharmacies, employers, faith leaders, and other community partners to identify and address barriers to COVID-19 vaccination in rural areas.

GAO Report: Medicare and Medicaid COVID-19 Program Flexibilities and Considerations for Their Continuation

Medicare and Medicaid—two federally financed health insurance programs—spent over $1.5 trillion on health care services provided to about 140 million beneficiaries in 2020. Recognizing the critical role of these programs in providing health care services to millions of Americans, the federal government has provided for increased funding and program flexibilities, including waivers of certain federal requirements, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to conduct monitoring and oversight of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, GAO has issued a series of government-wide reports from June 2020 through March 2021. GAO is continuing to monitor and report on these services.

This testimony summarizes GAO’s findings from these reports related to Medicare and Medicaid flexibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as preliminary observations from ongoing work related to telehealth waivers in both programs. Specifically, the statement focuses on what is known about the effects of these waivers and flexibilities on Medicare and Medicaid, and considerations regarding their ongoing use.

To conduct this work, GAO reviewed federal laws, CMS documents and guidance, and interviewed federal and state officials. GAO also interviewed six provider and beneficiary groups, selected based on their experience with telehealth services. GAO obtained technical comments from CMS and incorporated them as appropriate.

The report can be accessed here.

New Telehealth Resource Collection Published

The Technical Assistance and Services Center (TASC), a program of the National Rural Health Resource Center (The Center), has created a specialized collection of telehealth resources.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines telehealth as the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration.

Telehealth is especially critical in rural and other remote areas without the full range of health care services and providers. The types of telehealth services have expanded over the past 20 years to increase access to health care. The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly accelerated both the use and acceptance among patients, providers, and payers.

This collection of resources is tailored to the use and coverage of telehealth by rural providers. Within the collection are current and timely resources from federal agencies and organizations with a rural focus. Content is reviewed and updated regularly as relevant resources are published, and telehealth regulations change.

Commerce Department’s NTIA Announces $288 Million in Funding Available to States to Build Broadband Infrastructure

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced the availability of $288 million in grant funding for the deployment of broadband infrastructure. Grants will be awarded to partnerships between a state, or political subdivisions of a state, and providers of fixed broadband service.

NTIA’s Broadband Infrastructure Program was established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. In the priority order defined by the Act, NTIA will accept applications for projects that are designed to:

  1. Provide broadband service to the greatest number of households in an eligible service area;
  2. Provide broadband service to rural areas;
  3. Be most cost-effective in providing broadband service; or
  4. Provide broadband service with a download speed of at least 100 Mbps and an upload speed of at least 20 Mbps.

NTIA will group applications based on the priority above that each application addresses, and will sequence its review of application groups in the statutory order listed above.

“As a former governor, I know that state and local leaders have the best understanding of the gaps in their broadband infrastructure. This program will allow states and localities to partner with providers to target this funding toward the areas where it is most needed and can do the most good,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “While these grants will lay the foundation, we know that we need even bolder investments in broadband expansion to finish the job. President Biden’s American Jobs Plan will provide the resources to continue these broadband infrastructure buildouts until one hundred percent of Americans have access to high-speed, affordable, and reliable broadband.”

“NTIA has built durable partnerships with the states through our State Broadband Leaders Network, and with local governments and their broadband initiatives through our technical assistance offerings and other efforts,” said Acting NTIA Administrator Evelyn Remaley. “We are eager to put these relationships to work to ensure a successful program that expands broadband infrastructure in communities that need it most.”

More information about the program, including requirements for grant applications, can be found in the Notice of Funding Opportunity published today on NTIA is also holding a series of webinars to further inform the public about the program. The next Broadband Infrastructure webinars will be held on June 9 and 10.

Cognitive Impairment: Medicare Provides Opportunities to Detect & Diagnose

Do you have a patient with a cognitive impairment? Medicare covers a separate visit for a cognitive assessment so you can more thoroughly evaluate cognitive function and help with care planning.

3 Things You Need to Know:

  1. If your patient shows signs of cognitive impairment at an Annual Wellness Visit or other routine visit, you may perform a more detailed cognitive assessment and develop a care plan.
  2. The Cognitive Assessment & Care Plan Services (CPT code 99483) typically start with a 50-minute face-to-face visit that includes a detailed history and patient exam, resulting in a written care plan.
  3. Any clinician eligible to report Evaluation and Management (E/M) services can offer this service, including: physicians (MD and DO), nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and physician assistants.

Effective January 1, 2021, Medicare increased payment for these services to $282 (may be geographically adjusted) when provided in an office setting, added these services to the definition of primary care services in the Medicare Shared Savings Program, and permanently covers these services via telehealth.

Get details on Medicare coverage requirements and proper billing at

PAHAN Advisory – Lyme Disease & Other Tick-Borne Diseases in PA

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) has identified recent sustained increases in tick bite-related emergency department visits in nearly all regions of the state leading to a PA Health Alert Network (PAHAN) advisory. This trend is expected, as tick exposures in Pennsylvania generally increase during spring and summer months and serves as an important reminder that tickborne diseases occur annually in Pennsylvania. In addition, residents may be spending more time outdoors as indoor activities continue to be limited. Seeking medical care for tickborne illness should not be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From April through September, healthcare providers should have a heightened clinical suspicion for tickborne diseases. Tickborne diseases, confirmed or suspected, should be reported to the PADOH web-based electronic disease surveillance system, PA-NEDSS.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Telehealth Report

The Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) has released the 2020 Behavioral Health Telehealth Report, which was developed in collaboration with the OMHSAS Telehealth Steering Committee and Mercer Government Services Consulting. The report provides recommendations for Pennsylvania’s future of telehealth services after the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. To view the telehealth report, click here.

Free Childhood Immunization Flipchart from AAP

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Childhood Immunization Support Program offers, at no charge and while supplies last, a Childhood Immunization Flipchart designed to help clinicians in conversations with patients and families. The flipchart focuses on routine vaccinations for children from birth to age six years and contains family-friendly infographics and provider speaking points for each of the 10 recommended vaccines. The flipchart is mailed with a user guide, which includes suggestions for limiting the spread of germs on the flipchart during the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to request copies of the flipcharts.