Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Pennsylvania Nurse Licensure Compact Signed into Law

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed SB 115, which authorizes Pennsylvania to join the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). To date, 34 states are part of the NLC, which recognizes mutual agreement in the requirements of the professional licensure of nurses and reciprocity of license transfer between member states. ​In 2016, Gov. Wolf signed Act 112 into law which authorized the Commonwealth to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC). Like the NLC, the IMLC recognizes mutual agreement in the requirements for physician licensing and provides the benefit of easier transfer of licenses from states within the compact.

Rural Healthy People 2030 Survey Open for Input!

The Southwest Rural Health Research Center at Texas A&M University with funding support from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy is conducting a survey as part of Rural Healthy People 2030 – a project designed to understand the most important health priorities for rural Americans. This once in a decade survey allows individuals who care about rural health like you to voice your opinions on important topics for the health of rural individuals in the United States.  The study should take no longer than 15 minutes.

Follow this link to the Survey:
Take the Survey

CMS is proposing Medicare payment rates for hospital outpatient and Ambulatory Surgical Center (ASC) services.

The Calendar Year (CY) 2022 Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) and ASC Payment System Proposed Rule is published annually. Statute requires the final rule display by November 1. The rule addresses the Inpatient Only and ASC Covered Procedures lists, using 2019 claims data for payment rates, seeking comment on remote mental health services made eligible for payment during the Public Health Emergency, a new quality measure on vaccination rates for front line health workers, seeking comment to advance health equity through new rural emergency hospitals, and updating policies related to CMMI’s Radiation Oncology Model​.

Below are three links with information relating to the long anticipated OPPS_ASC Proposed Rule which was released by CMS and is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on August 4, with a 60 day comment period.

Web links

Federal Registrar:

Press Release:  

Fact Sheet:

2021 Dental HPV Toolkit Now Available

The Massachusetts Oral HPV Task Force developed the first dental toolkit in 2016 to improve HPV knowledge at the dentist. Since then, it has been used in dental outreach across Massachusetts and has been successfully adapted in seven states. The toolkit has now been redesigned to reflect feedback from users and updated to provide the most up-to-date recommendations. It also includes internal training materials on how to recommend the HPV vaccine, as well as in-office communication materials.

Click here to access the free, downloadable toolkit.

How Do We Integrate COVID-19 Vaccination into Primary Care?

As the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign enters a new, more challenging phase, primary care providers will be key to reaching many of the millions of Americans who have not yet gotten their shots. In a new feature, the Commonwealth Fund offer lessons gleaned from interviews with primary care providers on how to integrate COVID-19 vaccination into their day-to-day work. Practices have faced many challenges, but many have also devised creative ways to assess and meet vaccine demand and respond to patients’ questions and concerns. A recent poll found that 53 percent of unvaccinated people prefer to be vaccinated in their personal doctor’s office. Learn how we can make that an easier option for more Americans.

Learn more.

Pandemic Impact: 48,400 Physicians Made a Move

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the exodus from private practice to corporate medicine, Fierce Healthcare reports. Between January 1, 2019, and January 1, 2021, hospitals, payers, and other corporate entities acquired 20,900 physician practices, according to the Physicians Advocacy Institute. During that period, 48,400 physicians left independent practice to work for a larger employer. About half of those increases occurred between July 1, 2020, and January 1, 2021. As of January 1, 2021, nearly half of all U.S. practices were owned by hospitals or corporate entities, and 70 percent of physicians were employed by them.

Read more.

Most Unvaccinated People Have Low Incomes

More than half of unvaccinated Americans live in households that make less than $50,000 annually. Almost two-thirds of unvaccinated people who make less than $50,000 still say they either “definitely” or “probably” will get the vaccine. Making it easier for the working poor to get the COVID-19 shot could help boost vaccination rates. Vaccination has been politicized, but juggling work schedules and child care could be bigger factors than politics, as could worry about experiencing side effects and having to take unpaid time off.

Highmark Proposing to Acquire Gateway Health

Highmark Health will grow by more than 350,000 members if state regulators approve a proposed deal to acquire sole ownership of Gateway Health. The acquisition would expand Highmark’s insurance rolls from 6 million to 6.355 million members, a nearly six percent increase. For nearly three decades, Highmark Inc., has owned 50 percent of Gateway, which is headquartered a few blocks from Highmark’s corporate high-rise in Pittsburgh. The remaining 50 percent of Gateway has been owned by Livonia, Michigan-based Trinity Health, whose provider network spans 90 hospitals and other services across 22 states. Gateway offers Medicaid, Medicare and dual-eligible coverage across Pennsylvania. Highmark’s proposed acquisition of Gateway comes just a few months after the insurer’s affiliation with HealthNow New York Inc. became effective. The newly affiliated organization — which expanded Highmark’s reach to four states — has been rebranded Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York and Highmark Blue Shield of Northeastern New York.

Read more.

Biden Administration Regulatory Agenda includes Medicaid

The Office of Management and Budget released their Unified Regulatory Agenda (URA). The URA, which is updated twice each year, serves as an indicator of discrete regulatory priorities of the Administration and a timeline for expected action. However, the timelines are often aspirational and should not be viewed as hard and fast deadlines. The URA for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services includes several Medicaid-oriented proposals, including:

Presidential Order on Competition Includes Health Care

On July 9, President Biden signed an Executive Order aimed at curbing anti-competitive practices within several industries, including in health care. A fact sheet on the order is available here. Key provisions include:

  • Drug Importation. The order directs the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to work with states and Tribes on a plan to import prescription drugs from Canada, pursuant to the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003.
  • The order directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to increase support for generic and biosimilar drugs.
  • Drug Pricing. HHS is directed to issue a comprehensive plan within 45 days to combat high prescription drug prices and price gouging.
  • Pay for Delay. The order encourages the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to ban “pay for delay” and similar agreements in the pharmaceutical sector by way of federal rulemaking.
  • Hospital Mergers. The order emphasizes that hospital mergers can be harmful to patients, encouraging the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FTC to review and revise hospital merger guidelines.