Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Struggling Accessing Oral Health? Share Your Story!

The PA Coalition for Oral Health (PCOH) is collecting stories from all 67 counties around dental issues in our state. We know that many people struggle to find dental care as a basic healthcare need, and we would like to help lend a voice to the changes needed in our system. Only 1 in 4 general dentists in PA accept Medicaid, and many of these are not accepting new patients, or their location requires people to travel for hours to get care. Your story can help us let decision-makers know that change is needed to protect the smiles of all Pennsylvanians. We will share these stories with the Governor’s office, legislators, and the Departments of Health and Human Services to push for changes to the current system.

Please visit the survey link here to submit a story.

USDA Announces the Top Five Housing Guaranteed Lenders in Pennsylvania

Lenders helped 4,962 Rural Families Achieve Homeownership

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development announced the top five guaranteed housing program lenders for 2020 in Pennsylvania. In total, 4,962 rural families and individuals achieved homeownership through the Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program.

The top lenders in Pennsylvania are listed below. The amount of rural families and/or individuals they assisted is in parentheses:

  1. Residential Mortgage Services (319)
  2. Jersey Shore State Bank (226)
  3. Cross Country Mortgage (212)
  4. Union Home Mortgage (187)
  5. Plaza Home Mortgage (180)

Acting State Director for Rural Development in Pennsylvania Jeremy Wilson said, “At USDA, we believe that our lending partners open the door to homeownership to rural Americans, help strengthen communities, provide stability for families, and an opportunity for them to build generational wealth.”

This year marks the 30th anniversary of USDA’s Single-Family Housing Guaranteed Loan program. The program has helped 4.8 million people achieve the dream of homeownership.

“We could not have accomplished this without these partnerships,” Wilson said.

New Publication: Oral Health in Patients Experiencing Homelessness 

The National Network for Oral Health Access (NNOHA) and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC) developed a publication to bring awareness to the intersection of oral health and behavioral health concerns or cognitive impairment in people experiencing homelessness (PEH). The publication shares the impacts of behavioral health illness on oral health and how behavioral health and dental providers can work together to address this intersection in their practices.

Click here to read the publication.

New Report: Connection Between Oral Health and Mental Health

A new CareQuest Institute survey found that poor mental health status may be linked to dental fear and delayed dental care. In January and February 2021, CareQuest conducted a nationally representative survey to examine attitudes, experiences, and behaviors related to oral health. Respondents self-rated their mental health and oral health status and answered questions about oral healthcare utilization. Findings from this study showed consistent oral health disparities among those with self-identified poor mental health.

Click here for more information.

American Rescue Plan Lowers Health Insurance Costs for Americans Who May Have Lost Their Job

Today, as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) signed by President Biden, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is announcing that it is again lowering the cost of health insurance and opening more pathways for Americans to obtain affordable and comprehensive health coverage. Starting July 1, 2021, consumers who received or are approved to receive unemployment compensation for any week beginning in 2021 may be able to find even lower cost plans and save extra money on out-of-pocket expenses through

To take advantage of these additional savings, consumers who received or have been approved for unemployment compensation in 2021 need to visit to submit a new application or update their existing application to maximize the savings they can get for the rest of 2021. An average of three out of five eligible uninsured Americans can access $0 plans after advance payments of tax credits and an average of four out of five current consumers will be able to find a plan for $10 or less per month after advance payments of tax credits. CMS encourages current consumers who have received unemployment income for any week beginning in 2021 to update their application and enrollment between July 1 and August 15 to maximize the savings on their Marketplace coverage for the rest of the year.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is focused on providing relief to millions of families who need to access health insurance coverage because they have been impacted by job losses or underemployment during the pandemic,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “The Administration has made it easier than ever for Americans to enroll in an affordable, comprehensive health insurance plans through thanks to the increased financial assistance provided through the American Rescue Plan. We encourage consumers who have received unemployment compensation in 2021 to visit the Marketplace to see if they qualify to save money on their health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs.”

“We are doing everything we can to remove financial barriers to comprehensive health care,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “The American Rescue Plan provides consumers with additional savings and will make coverage even more attainable for those most in need. We welcome people who received unemployment benefits in 2021 to check out their health coverage options on on July 1.”

To read the HHS press release, visit:

CMS to Improve Home Health Services for Older Adults and People with Disabilities

Proposed rule would accelerate shift from volume-based incentives to quality-based incentives

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule that accelerates the shift from paying for home health services based on volume, to a system that incentivizes value and quality. The rule also seeks feedback on ways to attain health equity for all patients through policy solutions, including enhancing reports on Medicare/Medicaid dual eligible, disability status, people who are LGBTQ+; religious minorities; people who live in rural areas; and people otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.

The CY 2022 Home Health Prospective Payment System (HH PPS) proposed rule addresses challenges facing Americans with Medicare who receive health care at home. The proposed rule also outlines nationwide expansion of the Home Health Value-Based Purchasing (HHVBP) Model to incentivize quality of care improvements without denying or limiting coverage or provision of Medicare benefits for all Medicare consumers, and updates to payment rates and policies under the HH PPS.

“Homebound Medicare patients face a unique set of challenges and barriers to getting the care they need,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “Today’s announcement is a reaffirmation of our commitment to these older adults and people with disabilities who are counting on Medicare for the health care they need. This proposed rule would streamline service delivery and value quality over quantity – at a time when Americans need it most.”

The CMS Innovation Center (CMMI) developed the HHVBP Model, which began Jan. 1, 2016, to determine whether payment incentives for providing better quality of care with greater efficiency would improve the quality and delivery of home health care services to people with Medicare. The HHVBP Model’s current participants comprise all Medicare-certified home health agencies (HHAs), providing services across nine randomly selected states. The Third Annual Evaluation Report of the participants’ performance from 2016-2018 showed an average 4.6% improvement in HHAs’ quality scores and an average annual savings of $141 million to Medicare.

CMS announced Jan. 8, 2021 that the HHVBP model met the statutory requirements for expansion. CMS is proposing to expand the HHVBP Model nationwide effective Jan. 1, 2022. By expanding the HHVBP Model, CMS seeks to improve the beneficiary experience by providing incentives for HHAs to provide better quality of care with greater efficiency.

Additionally, the proposed rule would improve the Home Health Quality Reporting Program by removing or replacing certain quality measures to reduce burden and increase focus on patient outcomes. CMS would also begin collecting data on two measures promoting coordination of care in the Home Health Quality Reporting Program effective Jan. 1, 2023 as well as measures under Long Term Care Hospital and Inpatient Rehabilitation Quality Reporting Programs effective Oct. 1, 2022. This would position the agency with data to monitor outcomes across diverse populations and support the recent Executive Order 13985 of Jan. 20, 2021, entitled “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.”

For a fact sheet on the proposed rule, visit:

To download the proposed rule can be downloaded from the Federal Register, visit at:

CMS Proposed Rule to Increase Americans’ Access to Health Coverage for 2022

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today proposed a series of provisions to follow through on President Biden’s commitment to build on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), expand health coverage access and advance health equity. These provisions are the third installment of the payment notice for 2022.

The proposed rule includes a variety of provisions to protect and expand Americans’ access to high-quality, affordable health insurance. This includes proposals to lengthen the annual open enrollment period for 2022 by an additional 30 days, create a new special enrollment period opportunity for certain low-income consumers, and expand the duties of Federally-facilitated Exchange Navigators to offer additional help to consumers enrolling in plans. These actions demonstrate a strong commitment by the Biden-Harris Administration to extend health insurance coverage to more Americans and make it easier and more affordable to get covered.

For more information on the proposed rule review the fact sheet and press release.

To review the proposed rule in its entirety, visit:

New Report on Medicaid’s Role in the Resilience of the Nation’s Children

The National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD) released a new report, Medicaid Forward: Children’s Healththe second in a three-part series that looks at how Medicaid can and will, inevitably, play a critical role in the hard work of recovering from the pandemic and establishing a “new normal” for American health care. The report provides a close look at the realities the country is facing to aid the recovery of its children, as well as the innovations Medicaid programs across the country have made and are continuing to make to help millions of kids.

Nutritious Foods from Local Farms Available to Pennsylvania Students and Schools

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is encouraging schools, child care centers and summer meal sites to participate in the Pennsylvania Harvest of the Month Program and other programs that connect farms with schools to get more fresh, locally grown food on students’ plates. Pennsylvania Harvest of the Month is coordinated by Project PA, a collaboration between PDE and Penn State University’s Department of Nutritional Sciences. A Pennsylvania Harvest of the Month calendar identifies a Pennsylvania-grown agricultural product each month. To facilitate connections between schools and farms, links to resources to find PA farms and growers are provided along with recipes that incorporate the designated item of the month.