Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Increasing Female Dentists Improves Health Equity

A new study, Evaluating the Impact of Dentists’ Personal Characteristics on Workforce Participation: conducted by the Oral Health Workforce Research Center (OHWRC) at the University at Albany’s Center for Health Workforce Studies (CHWS) builds on their previous work. A National Study of the Practice Characteristics of Women in Dentistry and Potential Impacts on Access to Care for Underserved Communities that suggested that “female dentists treat more children and more publicly insured patients than their male counterparts. The growth in the number of women in dentistry may expand the capacity of the delivery system to better meet the needs of the population, particularly the underserved.”

Oral Antiviral COVID-19 Therapies Update

In December, the FDA approved the first oral antiviral for the treatment of mild-to-moderate coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in adults and pediatric patients (12 years of age and older weighing at least 40 kilograms or about 88 pounds) with positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 testing, and who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death. A limited number of FQHCs in Pennsylvania have begun to receive a supply of oral antivirals. Pennsylvania locations with oral antivirals obtained through the PA Department of health can be found at: Scroll down the page and note there are separate links for Mulnupiravir providers and Paxlovid providers. Individuals can also search by address using this therapeutics map: In addition, around 200 health centers nationwide, including seven in Pennsylvania, have been invited to participate in the HRSA program to distribute oral antivirals. As supply increases, oral AVs should be a more accessible solution, but supply is currently very limited in both programs.

Marketplace Health Coverage 2022 Open Enrollment Period Ends

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced 13.8 million Americans enrolled in marketplace health coverage ahead of the Jan. 15 deadline. This includes more than 360,000 Pennsylvanians, 90% of whom are receiving financial assistance to pay for their monthly Pennie premiums, in part due to the American Rescue Plan. Forty-four health centers and partners are providing enrollment assistance to consumers with in-person, virtual and telephonic appointments. has introduced new resources and materials for assisters and consumers to better understand the enrollment process and plan selections: Outside of open enrollment, consumers who experience a qualifying life event can enroll using a special enrollment period  within 60 days of losing coverage. For more information and resources, please contact, Statewide Director, Outreach and Enrollment.

Congress Looks Towards Voting Rights, Government Funding as Progress on BBB Act Stalls

As progress on the Build Back Better (BBB) Act negotiations has stalled, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has shifted focus to voting rights. He has pledged to bring up a vote on amending the filibuster by January. 17, 2022, if voting rights reforms do not pass, but Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) continue to oppose filibuster changes. Congress must also pass another continuing resolution or an omnibus appropriations bill by February. 18, 2022. Negotiations over a compromise omnibus bill appear to be progressing as House Democrats are beginning to support a $740 billion defense spending plan, which is $25 billion higher than the President’s request. A compromise funding bill could also include supplemental funding to address the ongoing pandemic.

Pennsylvania Responds to Cries for COVID-19 Help

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced the state is working to increase healthcare capacity to deal with the surge of COVID-19 cases. The Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency are coordinating the undertaking. The plans involve adding hospital beds within regions for 60 days to absorb patients from swamped hospitals. Additional medical support staff are to include physicians, respiratory therapists and registered nurses. Other staff will be sent directly to hospitals in need over the next three months. Certain nursing homes also will get additional beds, registered nurses and aides to allow hospitals in the area to discharge patients in need of long-term rehab or care more quickly, according to an Associated Press report.

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Examines the Federal COVID-19 Response

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing examining the federal COVID-19 response.  Witnesses Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Dr. Janet Woodcock and Dawn O’Connell testified on behalf the NIAID, NIH, CDC, FDA, and HHS. The hearing focused on clarification of new guidance and guidelines for COVID-19 exposure and isolation. HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) is working on putting together another small, targeted public health package to address issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and help prepare the public for the next public health emergency.

Biden Administration to Distribute Free, At-Home Rapid COVID-19 Tests

President Biden announced that, starting January 19th, the Administration will begin distributing at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests to American homes for free at This program will ensure that Americans have at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests available in the weeks and months ahead—in addition to the number of other ways they can get tested. The Administration is quickly completing a contracting process for the unprecedented purchase of one billion at-home, rapid tests to distribute as part of this program. You can find more details below about how to order an at-home test, and we encourage you to share this information broadly with your communities.

  • Ordering Process: Starting on January 19, Americans will be able to order a test online at To ensure broad access, the program will limit the number of tests sent to each residential address to four tests. Tests will usually ship within 7-12 days of ordering.
  • Distribution and Delivery Process: The Administration will partner with the United States Postal Service to package and deliver tests to Americans that want them. All orders in the continental United States will be sent through First Class Package Service, with shipments to Alaska, Hawaii, and the U.S. Territories and APO/FPO/DPO addresses sent through Priority Mail.

Ensuring Equity and Reaching Hardest-Hit Communities: The Administration is taking a number of steps to ensure this program reaches our hardest-hit and highest-risk communities. This includes prioritizing processing orders to households experiencing the highest social vulnerability and in communities that have experienced a disproportionate share of COVID-19 cases and deaths, particularly during this Omicron surge; launching a free call line, so that Americans who have difficulty accessing the internet or need additional support can phone-in orders for their tests; and, working with national and local organizations with deep experience serving communities of color, people living with disabilities, and other high-risk communities to serve as navigators, raise awareness about the program, and help people submit requests.