Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

CDC Training: Building the Safest Dental Visit

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a free online training safe dental practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. The online, self-paced training gives an overview of infection prevention and control principles that form the basis for the CDC recommendations for dental settings. It is designed to educate dental healthcare personnel, infection prevention coordinators, educators, consultants, and others.

Click here for more information.

PA AHEC Rebrands and Launches Newsletter

The Pennsylvania Area Health Education Centers (PA AHEC) and its regional affiliates introduced a new logo, an updated website and communications materials, and a regular newsletter to help keep stakeholders informed of AHEC activities and outcomes of their work. Click the link below to check out the website and subscribe to the newsletter at the bottom of the homepage.

Click here to check out the website.

New Federal Maternal and Child Health-Oral Health Webpage Launched

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) introduced a new webpage featuring program priorities and investments in oral health. Oral health is vital to the health and well-being of pregnant individuals, children, adolescents, young adults, and families. To improve oral health, MCHB aims to increase access to preventive services, foster and integrated workforce, and achieve health equity.

Click here to view the webpage.

Adult Medicaid Issue Brief Published

Community Catalyst, the American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute, (HPI) and Families USA published an issue brief on the current landscape of dental coverage for Medicaid-enrolled adults. “Making the Case for Dental Coverage for Adults in All State Medicaid Programs” illustrates how comprehensive dental coverage is a major driver of access to dental care and improved oral health for Medicaid-enrolled adults. The authors discuss federal policy options to ensure that all states offer adequate adult dental coverage in Medicaid that could reduce cost barriers and improve access to dental care for adults across the United States.

Click here to view the issue brief.

USDA Seeks Applications to Support Business Development and Create Jobs for People in Rural America

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it is accepting applications to support economic development and create jobs for people in rural America.

USDA is making this funding available under the Rural Business Development Grant program for eligible entities to support business opportunity and enterprise projects in rural communities. Eligible entities are rural towns, communities, state agencies, authorities, nonprofits, federally recognized tribes, public institutions of higher education and non-profit cooperatives.

Business opportunity projects are used to identify and analyze business opportunities that will use local rural materials or human resources. Such projects must be consistent with any local and area-wide community and economic development strategic plans and are used to support other economic development activities in the project area. Projects include the establishment of business support centers or to finance job training and leadership development in rural areas. Funding for business enterprise projects must be used to finance or develop small and emerging businesses in rural areas. Enterprise projects include the repair or modernization of buildings, technical assistance to a small business such as feasibility studies or business plans, or an equipment purchase for leasing to a small or emerging business.

In Fiscal Year 2022, USDA anticipates that part of the funding will be set aside for federally recognized Native American tribes, Rural Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Communities/Rural Economic Area Partnerships, projects located in Persistent Poverty areas, including those of Native Americans, and for Strategic Economic and Community Development (SECD) projects. Eligible applicants for the persistent poverty and SECD set-aside funds must demonstrate that 100 percent of the benefits of an approved grant will assist beneficiaries in the designated areas.

Applications for grant funding, including all set-aside funds, must be submitted to the USDA Rural Development State Office for the state where the project is located by 4:30 p.m. local time on Feb. 28, 2022. For additional information, visit or see page 53270 of the Sept. 27, 2021, Federal Register.

USDA Rural Development encourages applicants to consider projects that will advance key priorities under the Biden-Harris Administration to help rural America build back better and stronger. Key priorities include combatting the COVID-19 pandemic; addressing the impacts of climate change; and/or advancing equity in rural America.

If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.

CMS releases Fact Sheet on Current Medicaid and CHIP Health Coverage Options Available for Afghan Evacuees

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a fact sheet to help states and advocacy organizations understand what health coverage options are available to Afghan Evacuees.

Most evacuees arriving in the United States will be eligible for health coverage through Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Health Insurance Marketplace, or refugee medical assistance (RMA).  RMA is provided through the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and administered in most cases by state Medicaid programs.  Eligibility for each coverage program depends upon the immigration status of the evacuee and the state where an evacuee is residing.

Learn more here:

Biden Administration Prescription Drug Plan

Summary from the National Rural Health Association

On Thursday, September 9, 2021, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra released a comprehensive plan to lower prescription drug prices. The plan was released in response to the larger Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy released by the Biden Administration earlier this summer. In the Executive Order, the Administration outlined areas where a lack of competition was a driving force in problems across economic sectors, including in prescription drug access and pricing. In the report, HHS identifies that Americans spend more than $1,500 per person on prescription drugs, while paying prices that are higher than our international counterparts. With that, brand name drugs continue to rise in cost faster than inflation.

To address this growing issue, the Administration has outlined three guiding principles for the Drug Pricing Plan:

  1. Make drugs more affordable and equitable for all consumers and throughout the health care system.
  2. Improve and promote competition throughout the prescription drug industry.
  3. Foster scientific innovation to promote better health care and improve health.

The Administration has placed an outline for what they would like to see legislatively to accomplish this, most of which is being proposed through the ‘Build Back Better’ (BBB) plan being negotiated currently on Capitol Hill. Some of these provisions they’re supportive of include:

  • Drug pricing negotiation in Medicare Parts B and D, with those negotiated prices also available to commercial plans.
  • Part D reform, including a cap on catastrophic spending.
  • Legislation to slow price increases on existing drugs.
  • Legislation to speed the entry of bioslimilar and generic drugs.
  • Prohibition on ‘pay-for-delay’ tactics.

While supporting actions being discussed on Capitol Hill, the Administration also plans to consider taking actions at the Department level to address this issue. Some of these provisions include:

  • Test models using value-based payments in Part B, in which payments for drugs is directly linked to the clinical value they provide patients.
  • Test models providing additional cost-sharing support to Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy Beneficiaries for using biosimilars and generics.
  • Data collection from insurers and PBMs to improve transparency about prices, rebates, and out-of-pocket spending.
  • Work with states and Tribes to develop drug importation programs.

In sum, the Biden Administration is working to promote lower prescription drug prices. To do so, from our interpretation, they are exploring new test models at the Department level, but primarily throwing weight behind prescription drug reform legislation being discussed on Capitol Hill.

Guidance for Clinicians Caring for Individuals Recently Evacuated from Afghanistan

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released guidance through a CDC Health Advisory for clinicians caring for individuals recently evacuated from Afghanistan. They should be on alert for cases of measles that meet the case definition, as well as other infectious diseases, including mumps, leishmaniasis, and malaria among evacuees that includes both Afghan nationals and U.S. citizens from Afghanistan. Clinicians should immediately notify their local or state health departments of any suspected cases of measles as well as recommend the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine for unvaccinated patients. The CDC also recommends that evacuees also get up to date on vaccinations for varicella, polio, COVID-19 and season influenza.

Learn more about this guidance.

Seniors Are Spending a Lot Out of Pocket on Dental

About 31.3 million Medicare beneficiaries (53%) paid an average of $874 out-of-pocket for dental services in 2018, a new analysis from Kaiser Family Foundation shows. About 4.6 million beneficiaries (8%) had average out-of-pocket spending on hearing care of about $914, while 30.2 million Medicare beneficiaries utilized vision services and had an average out-of-pocket expense of $230. Democrats’ reconciliation bill would expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits. Joe Hollander, CEO of Scranton Primary Health Care Center, testified recently during a congressional hearing on the subjec.