- In a Rural California Region, a Plan Takes Shape to Provide Shade from Dangerous Heat
- New Native American Health Alliance to Address Physician Shortages in Tribal Communities
- How NRHA, USDA Are Helping Rural Hospitals
- Hundreds of Thousands of US Infants Every Year Pay the Consequences of Prenatal Exposure to Drugs, a Growing Crisis Particularly in Rural America
- Rural Maternal Health Series Webinars
- Federally Qualified Health Centers Can Make the Switch to Value-Based Payment, But Need Assistance
- New Program Aims to Boost Tribal Access to Care, but Advocates Says More Can Be Done
- Tribal Schools to Get 24/7 Behavioral Health Crisis Line
- As More Rural Hospitals Stop Delivering Babies, Some Are Determined to Make It Work
- PCORI Advisory Panels: Panel Openings
- Tribes in Washington Are Battling a Devastating Opioid Crisis. Will a Multimillion-Dollar Bill Help?
- HHS Launches Postpartum Maternal Health Collaborative
- FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Releases Annual Agency Equity Action Plans to Further Advance Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government
- Rural Emergency Medical Team Touts Using Whole Blood to Help Save Lives
- New Black-Owned Freight Farm in Rural Minnesota to Tackle Food Insecurity, Health Inequities
Applications open on September 29
The Health Resources and Services Administration at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is making $25.5 billion in new funding available for health care providers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding includes:
- $8.5 billion from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) for providers who serve rural Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or Medicare patients. ARP rural payments to providers will be based on the amount of Medicaid/CHIP and Medicare services provided to patients living in rural areas as defined by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy; and
- $17 billion for Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Phase 4 payments for a broad range of providers who can document revenue loss and expenses associated with the pandemic. For these Phase 4 payments, smaller providers—who tend to operate on thin margins and often serve vulnerable or isolated communities—will receive reimbursements for lost revenues and COVID-19 expenses at a higher rate compared to larger providers. Phase 4 will also include bonus payments based on the amount of services providers furnish to Medicaid/CHIP and Medicare patients, who tend to be lower income and have greater and more complex medical needs.
Providers will apply for both programs with a single application, and the application portal will open on September 29, 2021.
For more information about eligibility requirements, the documents and information providers will need to complete their application, and the application process for Phase 4 and ARP Rural payments, visit: https://www.hrsa.gov/provider-relief/future-payments.
Today’s announcement also includes an important update about PRF reporting for payments received in the first half of 2020. Given challenges from recent natural disasters and the Delta variant, HHS announced a 60-day grace period to help providers complete their PRF Reporting requirements if they fail to meet the September 30, 2021 deadline for reporting payments received from April 10, 2020 to June 30, 2020. While the deadlines to use funds and the Reporting Time Period will not change, HHS will not initiate collection activities or similar enforcement actions for noncompliant providers during the grace period.
The Biden-Harris Administration will require COVID-19 vaccination of staff within all Medicare and Medicaid-certified facilities to protect both them and patients from the virus and its more contagious Delta variant. Facilities across the country should make efforts now to get health care staff vaccinated to make sure they are in compliance when the rule takes effect.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), announced that emergency regulations requiring vaccinations for nursing home workers will be expanded to include hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies, among others, as a condition for participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The decision was based on the continued and growing spread of the virus in health care settings, especially in parts of the U.S. with higher incidence of COVID-19.
“There is no higher priority for us than patient health and safety. As the Delta variant strengthens, the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to doing everything we can to keep patients, and those who care for them, safe,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra. “There is no question that staff, across any health care setting, who remain unvaccinated pose both direct and indirect threats to patient safety and population health. Ensuring safety and access to all patients, regardless of their entry point into the health care system, is essential.”
Nursing homes with an overall staff vaccination rate of 75% or lower experience higher rates of preventable COVID infection. In CMS’s review of available data, the agency is seeing lower staff vaccination rates among hospital and End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) facilities. To combat this issue, CMS is using its authority to establish vaccine requirements for all providers and suppliers that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Vaccinations have proven to reduce the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 and are effective against the Delta variant. CMS will continue to work closely with all Medicare and Medicaid certified facilities to ensure these new requirements are met.
“We know that those working in health care want to do what is best for their patients in order to keep them safe,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “As the Delta variant continues to spread, we know the best defense against it lies with the COVID-19 vaccine. Data show that the higher the level of vaccination rates among providers and staff, the lower the infection rate is among patients who are dependent upon them for care. Now is the time to act. I’m urging everyone, but especially those fighting this virus on the front lines, to get vaccinated and protect themselves, their families, and their patients from COVID-19.”
CMS is developing an Interim Final Rule with Comment Period that will be issued in October. CMS expects certified Medicare and Medicaid facilities to act in the best interest of patients and staff by complying with new COVID-19 vaccination requirements. Health care workers employed in these facilities who are not currently vaccinated are urged to begin the process immediately. Facilities are urged to use all available resources to support employee vaccinations, including employee education and clinics, as they work to meet new federal requirements.
A new brief from the North Carolina Rural Health Research and Policy Analysis Center examines the difference in payments between rural and urban hospitals.
Click here to access the brief.
AmeriCorps, the federal agency for volunteering and national service, has launched Public Health AmeriCorps, a new partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support the recruitment, training, and development of a workforce ready to respond to the nation’s public health needs. The program, which is supported by a $400 million investment from the American Rescue Plan Act, is anticipated to fund up to 5,000 AmeriCorps positions over the next five years.
For more information, click here.
During September, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH) recognizes National Hispanic Heritage Month and the unique health care disparities that impact this population.
As the largest minority population in the U.S., Hispanics comprise more than 18% of the total population in the U.S. In addition to being the largest minority population, Hispanics also have the highest uninsured rate of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S., with almost 19% of this population not covered by health insurance (compared to almost 6% of the non-Hispanic White population). Health disparities also differ among the various subgroups that comprise this population: Mexicans and Puerto Ricans are twice as likely to die from diabetes as Whites and smoking is higher among Puerto Rican males (26%) and Cuban males (22%) than overall rates among all Hispanic Americans (14%).
As we continue to combat COVID-19, CMS OMH is also taking time to emphasize the importance of vaccination for the Hispanic community. Despite increases in the share of COVID-19 vaccinations that are going to Hispanics, the percentage of Whites that have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination dose is still 1.1 times higher than Hispanics.
Throughout this month we will be highlighting these disparities and helping our partners with information and resources to help Hispanic communities improve their overall health. Below are resources that you can share during National Hispanic Heritage Month and beyond.
- Read CMS OMH’s, Understanding the Health Needs of Diverse Groups of Hispanic Medicare Beneficiaries, which examines the future medical needs and challenges of a fast growing Hispanic population.
- Review the 2021 Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Disparities in Health Care in Medicare Advantage stratified report, which looks at racial and ethnic differences in health care experiences and clinical care for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries.
- Download and share our Rural Health Strategy: 5 Key Objectives in Spanish and English, which provides five objectives to help move rural health providers and their patients forward.
- Learn about the Guide to Developing a Language Access Plan to ensure your organization provides high quality and appropriate language services.
- Hear from others by reading Providing Language Services to Diverse Populations: Lessons from the Field.
- Revisit A Practical Guide to Implementing the National CLAS Standards: For Racial, Ethnic and Linguistic Minorities, People with Disabilities and Sexual and Gender Minorities
- Read and share A Culturally and Linguistically Tailored Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Resources Inventory, a catalog of diabetes prevention resources tailored to various audiences, including racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ communities, people with disabilities, and people with limited English proficiency.
- Download and share Coverage to Care (C2C) resources which are all available in both English and Spanish.
- Share Connected Care resources, such as the “Connecting the Dots” patient animated videos, available in both Spanish and English, to help individuals living with multiple chronic conditions learn more about the benefits of chronic care management services.
Projects to Help Combat the COVID-19 Pandemic, Address Impacts of Climate Change and Advance Equity Will Receive Funding Priority
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Justin Maxson today announced that USDA Rural Development will give funding priority for projects to address some of the top challenges in rural America.
This funding priority supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s mission to help the people of rural America build back better. USDA will notify stakeholders that a program is offering funding priority when the program’s application window opens and will continuously update the Priority Points Program Chart.
Rural Development will award priority points on funding applications for projects that will:
- Help rural communities recover economically from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in disadvantaged communities.
- Ensure all rural residents have equitable access to Rural Development programs and will benefit from projects Rural Development funds.
- Reduce climate pollution and increase resiliency to the impacts of climate change by providing economic support to rural communities.
USDA is incorporating these key priorities into its work across the agency. The Department is working with our partners to encourage potential applicants to focus on strategic investments that complement these priorities.
For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov/priority-points.
Application scoring criteria for the programs offering priority points will be included in funding announcements and published in the Federal Register when the application window opens.
If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.
We’ve learned a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic on the ways access to comprehensive health care affects our lives and well-being. The availability of COVID-19 tests, vaccines, and treatments have saved millions of Americans from sickness and death ̶ because the federal government stepped up to make sure that every person who needs COVID-related care has access to the care they need. But the challenge of the past 19 months has also put an incredible strain on our country’s health care infrastructure and highlighted weaknesses and disparities that cry out for smart and innovative solutions.
I am privileged to lead an organization that is at the forefront not only in the fight against COVID-19, but one that also works tirelessly to ensure the more than 170 million Americans with Marketplace, Medicare or Medicaid coverage know they will be able to get the care they need and deserve.
Our vision is straight forward: “CMS serves the public as a trusted partner and steward, dedicated to advancing health equity, expanding coverage, and improving health outcomes.” How we achieve this vision is through the work of thousands of individuals dedicated to improving people’s lives through public policy aimed at making the U.S. health care system work better for everyone.
As I mark my first 100 days of leading CMS, I think it’s important to lay out my strategy for how the agency will achieve this vision and how we should judge our success. To me, everything we do at CMS should be aligned with one or more of six strategic pillars:
- Advance health equity by addressing the health disparities that underlie our health system
- Build on the Affordable Care Act and expand access to quality, affordable health coverage, and care
- Engage our partners and the communities we serve throughout the policymaking and implementation process
- Drive innovation to tackle our health system challenges and promote value-based, person-centered care
- Protect our programs’ sustainability for future generations by serving as a responsible steward of public funds
- Foster a positive and inclusive workplace and workforce, and promote excellence in all aspects of CMS’s operations
In the short time I have been CMS Administrator, we have already made significant progress on these pillars, focusing our efforts on improving health equity and access to coverage by working across what I call “the three Ms”: Medicare, Medicaid & CHIP, and the ACA Marketplaces. For example:
- We’ve expanded affordable coverage through HealthCare.gov. Thanks to the Special Enrollment Period instituted by President Biden, more than 2.5 million Americans were able to enroll in federal and state marketplaces this year, and millions of new and returning consumers found coverage for $10 or less per month.
- For every decision being made, we’re asking ourselves “how is this action advancing health equity?” That shift in perspective has resulted in a number of actions including a proposed rule to support home care workers’ access to benefits; encouraging states to educate eligible immigrants about Medicaid coverage; and proposing steps to close health equity gaps by providing persons with Medicare battling End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) with greater access to care.
- CMS increased the availability of home-based community services so that seniors and people with disabilities can receive the care they need in their own homes and communities. This included increasing access to COVID-19 vaccinations to 1.6 million Medicare beneficiaries who have difficulty leaving their homes or are otherwise hard-to-reach.
In addition to these policy initiatives, I’ve assembled one of the most experienced and diverse leadership teams in CMS history, bringing decades of federal government, Congressional, advocacy, private-sector, clinical, state-based and previous agency experience together to serve the people who rely on CMS for coverage and care.
We will work tirelessly to address the gaps in the health care system exposed by the COVD-19 pandemic. On behalf of people who rely on our programs, I and the more than 6,000 dedicated professionals who make up CMS are committed to driving innovative solutions to make comprehensive health care more equitable, more accessible, and more affordable.
13 Projects Will Support Climate-Smart Solutions to Lower Energy Costs in Pennsylvania
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Department is investing $464 million to build or improve renewable energy infrastructure and to help rural communities, agricultural producers and businesses lower energy costs in 48 states and Puerto Rico.
“USDA continues to prioritize climate-smart infrastructure to help rural America build back better, stronger and more equitably than ever before,” Vilsack said. “We recognize that lowering energy costs for small businesses and agricultural producers helps to expand economic development and employment opportunities for people in America’s rural towns and communities. The investments we are announcing today demonstrate how the Biden-Harris Administration has put rural communities at the heart of climate action and climate-smart solutions.”
USDA is financing $129 million of these investments through the Rural Energy for America Program. This program provides funding to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements. These climate-smart investments will conserve and generate more than 379 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) in rural America, which equates to enough electricity to power 35,677 homes per year.
USDA is financing $335 million of these investments through the Electric Loan Program. The loans will help build or improve 1,432 miles of line to strengthen reliability in rural areas. The loans include $102 million for investments in smart grid technology, which uses digital communications to detect and react to local changes in electricity usage.
In Pennsylvania, USDA Rural Development invested $173,432 in REAP grants for 13 projects:
- Whiskey Hollow LLC was awarded a $20,000 grant to make energy efficiency improvements to the reverse osmosis and evaporator equipment utilized for maple syrup production. This project is expected to lower the company’s energy use by 88 percent per year.
- Linford Sensenig was awarded a $11,750 grant to purchase and install a 27.2 kilowatt roof-mounted solar photovoltaic system. The solar panels will be installed on the roof of a storage building at the facility which offers variable sizes of storage units that are climate controlled, have security lighting for surveillance, and ground level access. This project will save an energy savings of $3,468 per year and will replace 30,858 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, which is enough electricity to power two homes annually.
- Zody’s Moving & Storage Inc. was awarded a grant of $20,000 to purchase and install a 55.2-kilowatt roof-mounted solar photovoltaic system. The solar panels will be installed on the roofs of two buildings located on the moving and storage company’s property. This project will save an energy savings of $6,503 per year and will replace 60,569 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, which is enough electricity to power five homes annually.
- North Gilpin Street LLC was awarded a grant of $4,468 to purchase and install a 12-kilowatt roof-mounted solar photovoltaic system. The solar panels will be installed on the roof of a building at the commercial rental business site. This project will save an energy savings of $1,737 per year and will replace 14,367 kilowatt hours per year, which is enough electricity to power one home annually.
- Holy Cow Farm was awarded a grant of $6,750 to purchase and install a 14.96-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system. The solar panels will be installed on the roof of an equipment shed building on the farm, which specializes in sustainably grown specialty cut flowers and hops. This project will realize an energy savings of $1,089 per year and will replace 9,233 kilowatt hours of electricity per year or 56 percent of the farm’s energy needs.
- Sechrist Farms was awarded a grant of $18,000 to purchase and install a 24-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system. The solar panels will be installed on the roof of an agriculture building on the farm. This project will realize an energy savings of $4,498 per year and will replace 28,655 kilowatt hours of electricity per year or 100 percent of the farm’s energy needs, which is enough electricity to power two homes annually.
- A Rural Development investment of $10,000 was awarded to help John Kreider dba Kreider Property Improvement purchase and install a 36-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system that will be placed on the roof of the rental property business. This project will save $4,165 per year and replace 38,311 kilowatt hours of electricity per year or 103 percent of the business needs, which is enough electricity to power three homes annually.
- Greenleaf Nibert was awarded a grant of $5,454 to assist with the purchase and installation of a 28.22-kilowatt ground-mount solar photovoltaic system. This project will save the family-owned cabinet manufacturing business $4,409 per year and will replace 33,870 kilowatt hours of electricity (92 percent of the company’s energy use) annually, which is enough energy to power 3 homes.
- Little Ridge Country Market was awarded a grant of $20,000 to purchase and install a 69.6-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system. The solar panels will be installed on the roof of the chicken house on the poultry farm, whose main operation is raising and selling broiler chickens. This project is expected to replace 72,902 kilowatt hours of electricity (83 percent of the company’s energy use) per year, which is enough energy to power 13 homes.
- Resource Rentals and Sales was awarded a grant of $15,000 to purchase and install a 57.6-kilowatt ground-mount solar photovoltaic system. This project will save the equipment and rental sales business $5,796 annually and is expected to replace 67,157 kilowatt hours of electricity (100 percent of the company’s energy use) per year, which is enough energy to power six homes.
- Highspire Hills Farm was awarded a grant of $15,000 to purchase and install a 30.35-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system on the roof of an agriculture building on the egg production farm. The funds will also be used to install a 21.4-kilowatt ground-mount solar array adjacent to the building. This project will realize an energy savings of $3,224 per year and will replace 24,680 kilowatt hours of electricity, which is 117 percent of the farm’s usage annually. This is enough electricity to offset the use of 22.5 tons of carbon dioxide, 522 trees and 47 barrels of oil.
- Preston Country Market was awarded a grant of $7,010 to assist in making energy efficiency improvements to the walk-in freezer and cooler at its convenience store. Preston County Market is a small locally owned one-stop shop, selling gas to groceries. These upgrades are expected to save the business approximately $900 (50 percent of its current energy costs) per year.
- Historic Ashland LLC was awarded a grant of $20,000 to purchase and install a 32-kilowatt ground mounted solar photovoltaic system. Historic Ashland LLC is in the rural community of Wrightsville, York County, Pa. This project will save an energy savings of $7,728 per year and will replace 35,671 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, which is enough electricity to power three homes annually.
To learn more about these and other resources for rural areas, contact a USDA Rural Development state office.
Under the Biden-Harris Administration, Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov. If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
PCOH is requesting proposals for the 2021-2022 Oral Health Plan Mini-Grant Program. The purpose of this program is to facilitate the implementation of the goals and recommendations of the 2020-2030 PA Oral Health Plan, as well as to advance the oral health of all Pennsylvanians. Requests may not exceed $4,000.
Applications are due September 30th.
Funding for this project is through the Pennsylvania Department of Health through Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Preventative Health and Health Services Block Grant. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by CDC, HHS or the U.S. Government.
The Technical Assistance and Services Center (TASC), in coordination with the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP), are pleased to provide an update of the COVID-19 Funding Sources Impacting Rural Providers guide. This funding resource is intended to support rural health care providers, along with their state and local partners, navigate the availability of federal funds to support the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic response and recovery efforts. This guide is updated regularly to capture changes in funding sources.
Seven tables, or matrices, are provided for quick reference at the beginning of this resource. The tables can be used to check eligibility of participation in funding sources by provider types: rural prospective payment system (PPS) and critical access hospitals (CAH), rural health clinics (RHC), federally qualified health centers (FQHC), long-term care (LTC) or skilled nursing facilities (SNF), tribal facilities, and emergency medical services (EMS). The tables also provide an at-a-glance view for each provider type sharing the different types of funds that may be accessed from various funding sources dependent on their participation eligibility. Each funding source is described in its own section of this resource with an executive summary followed by further detail on the use of funds, reporting requirements, hyperlinks to the legislation and detailed information. The majority of the updates are in sections on the RHC COVID-19 Testing and Mitigation Program and the HRSA Health Center Grants.
The guide can be found in COVID-19 Collection located on The National Rural Health Resource Center’s website. This collection consists of trusted and reliable resources, such as the COVID-19 Funding Sources Impacting Rural Providers Guide, along with standing links to additional organizations’ COVID-19 resources, FAQs, webinars, tools, and trainings. The Center aims to help direct the most up-to-date and relevant tools and resources to rural hospitals, clinics, and their communities. This Collection will be updated regularly to help assist with the abundance of circulating information relating to COVID-19.