Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Social Media Toolkit Can Help with Recruiting

It is not a surprise that social media has become an addiction to many, but is it also a tool for recruiting healthcare professionals? Yes, it is. The Social Media Toolkit from the Alabama Department of Public Health will give you an in-depth analysis of three social media platforms, as well as describing how to create a free account. The toolkit includes useful information on how to create a social media marketing plan for recruitment of healthcare professionals. As a bonus, the toolkit gives a brief review of social media etiquette, which is vital when reaching out to potential employees. Access the toolkit.

Drug Overdose Deaths Claim More Than 1 Million Years of Life

Adolescents and young adults lost an estimated 1.2 million years of life due to unintentional drug overdoses over five years, according to a study published in JAMA. About 3,300 adolescents ages 10–19 years old died of an unintentional drug overdose in the U.S. between 2015 and 2019, representing about 187,078 years of life lost, researchers from Ohio State University said. That number rises to nearly 22,000 young people when expanding the age group to overdose deaths among those 10–24 years old. Males collectively lost more years of life, the researchers said. Read more.

Lockdowns Reduced Mortality By 0.2%

Study finds lockdowns only reduced mortality by 0.2%. Researchers – Johns Hopkins University economics professor Steve Hanke, Lund University economics professor Lars Jonung, and special advisor at Copenhagen’s Center for Political Studies Jonas Herby – analyzed the effects of lockdown measures such as school shutdowns, business closures, and mask mandates on COVID-19 deaths. “We find little to no evidence that mandated lockdowns in Europe and the United States had a noticeable effect on COVID-19 mortality rates,” the researchers wrote. The researchers also examined shelter-in-place orders, finding that they reduced COVID-19 mortality by 2.9%. Read more.

People Could Lose Medicaid When Pandemic Ends

States expect the current federal public health emergency to expire this year, triggering a requirement that they must comb through their Medicaid rolls to see who is no longer eligible. With redeterminations for current Medicaid eligible placed on hold, Pennsylvania stands to see more than 400,000 lose coverage. Consumers typically lose coverage because their income increases, or they fail to submit the proper paperwork to prove eligibility. The PA Department of Human Services and the Pennsylvania Health Insurance Exchange, Pennie, have been working to identify those consumers who may lose Medicaid coverage and provide them with information on the availability of financial help if the enroll in Pennie. Read more.

2022 Federal Poverty Level Guidelines

Federal Poverty Level (FPL) guidelines are issued each year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They’re based on information gathered by the Census Bureau. The Bureau uses that data to calculate the total cost of essential resources used by an average person in a year. Federal poverty levels are used to determine eligibility for certain programs and benefits, including savings on Marketplace health insurance, and Medicaid and CHIP coverage. The Pennsylvania Health Law Project has created an Income and Resource Limit Chart for Medicaid and other health programs. View the full HHS chart.

Medicare Will Cover Free Over-the-Counter COVID-19 Tests

CMS Developing Initiative to Enable Access to Eight Free Over-the-Counter COVID-19 Tests for Medicare Beneficiaries in Early Spring

As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing efforts to expand Americans’ access to free testing, people in either Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage will be able to get over-the-counter COVID-19 tests at no cost starting in early spring. Under the new initiative, Medicare beneficiaries will be able to access up to eight over-the-counter COVID-19 tests per month for free. Tests will be available through eligible pharmacies and other participating entities. This policy will apply to COVID-19 over-the-counter tests approved or authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This is the first time that Medicare has covered an over-the-counter test at no cost to beneficiaries. There are a number of issues that have made it difficult to cover and pay for over-the-counter COVID-19 tests. However, given the importance of expanding access to testing, CMS has identified a pathway that will expand access to free over-the-counter testing for Medicare beneficiaries. This new initiative will enable payment from Medicare directly to participating pharmacies and other participating entities to allow Medicare beneficiaries to pick up tests at no cost. CMS anticipates that this option will be available to people with Medicare in the early spring.

Until then, people with Medicare can access free tests through a number of channels established by the Biden-Harris Administration. Medicare beneficiaries can:

  • Request four free over-the-counter tests for home delivery at
  • Access COVID-19 tests through healthcare providers at over 20,000 free testing sites nationwide. A list of community-based testing sites can be found here.
  • Access lab-based PCR tests and antigen tests performed by a laboratory when the test is ordered by a physician, non-physician practitioner, pharmacist, or other authorized health care professional at no cost. In addition to accessing a COVID-19 lab test ordered by a health care professional, people with Medicare can also already access one lab-performed test without an order, also without cost sharing, during the public health emergency.

In addition:

  • Medicare Advantage plans may offer coverage and payment for over-the-counter COVID-19 tests as a supplemental benefit in addition to covering Medicare Part A and Part B benefits, so Medicare beneficiaries covered by Medicare Advantage should check with their plan to see if it includes such a benefit.
  • All Medicare beneficiaries with Part B are eligible for the new benefit, whether enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan or not.

For more information, please see these Frequently Asked Questions,

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month

This week is the start of National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM). During February, oral health advocates across the country are raising awareness on the importance of children’s oral health and focusing on the theme, “Sealants Make Sense.” Free materials are available from the American Dental Association (ADA). Oral Health Watch is also hosting the “National Children’s Dental Health Month Tweet Chat” with several cohosts on February 10th at 2 pm ET. Participants are encouraged to follow @OralHealthWatch on Twitter and use #NCDHM and #KidsTeeth in any NCDHM-related tweets.

Click here to view the ADA’s free materials.
Click here to check out @OralHealthWatch on Twitter.

CDC Division of Oral Health New Email Subscriptions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Oral Health has unveiled a new communication series of three topic-focused email subscriptions to educate, promote, and share information on various oral health subjects. The three new emails are General Updates from the Division of Oral Health, Infection Prevention & Control in Dental Settings, and CDC’s Dental Public Health Residency Program. The emails are intended for dental health care personnel, dental and dental public health students, advocates and educators, researchers, water operators and engineers, and anyone interested in oral health.

Click here to subscribe to the General Updates emails.
Click here to subscribe to the Infection Prevention & Control emails.
Click here to subscribe to the Dental Public Health Residency Program emails.

2022 PA LGBTQ Health Needs Assessment Launched

LGBTQ Pennsylvanians ages 13 and over are invited to participate in Pennsylvania’s LGBTQ Health Needs Assessment. The goal of the survey is to gather information to better understand the health status and health care experience of LGBTQ individuals and the community. The survey is collecting information to support improvements in care and services. Responses are anonymous and questions may be skipped with the exception of the three eligibility questions at the beginning of the survey. Individuals have a chance to win one of ten $50 gift cards for completing the survey.

Click here for more information and to complete the survey.