- Mobile Clinics Really Got Rolling in the Pandemic. A New Law Will Help Them Cast a Wider Safety Net.
- Opioids Are Devastating Cherokee Families. The Tribe Has a $100 Million Plan to Heal
- Less Staff, Longer Delays and Fewer Options: Rural America Confronts a Health Care Crisis
- The Pandemic Pushed Rural Philanthropy to Change
- Warner, Blackburn Lead Bipartisan Effort to Preserve Access to Rural Health Care
- Tackling Rural America's 'Hidden' Housing Crisis
- Experts: National Physician Shortage Will Hit Rural Areas Harder
- Ensuring Health Care Quality in Rural America
- Rural Communities Want to Tap Federal Funding. But It's Hard to Know Where to Start
- Nearly Half of All Rural Hospitals Are Operating in the Red, Study Says
- Home-Based Care: Fixing the Childcare Drought in Rural America
- Rural Hospitals That Were Struggling Financially Even Before the Pandemic Are Running Out of COVID Aid
- Oklahoma Researchers Aim For More Mental Health Resources In Rural Schools
- Q&A: A Rural Healthcare Hub for Doctors and Policymakers
- February in Brief: Expanding Access to Health Care in Rural Areas and Improving Early Access to Cancer Screenings in Underserved Communities
New Oral Health Activity Book for Kids Released
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created “Take Care of Your Teeth,” an oral health activity book for children. The book features coloring pages, mazes, word searches, and connect-the-dots to teach children how regular oral health habits can help prevent cavities. The book is available in 13 languages.
CMS Releases Analysis on 2022 Medicare Part B Premium Reexamination
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a report that recommends cost savings from lower-than-expected Medicare Part B spending be passed along to people with Medicare Part B coverage in the calculation of the 2023 Part B premium. Earlier this year, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra instructed CMS to reassess the 2022 Part B premium amount in response to a price reduction for Aduhelm™, a monoclonal antibody directed against amyloid for use in treating Alzheimer’s disease. Given the information available today, it is expected that the 2023 premium will be lower than 2022. The final determination will be made later this fall.
“At the Secretary’s direction, CMS reassessed the Medicare Part B premium and recommends that the identified savings be incorporated into the Medicare Part B premium for 2023,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “Due to changes in the cost of Aduhelm™ and coverage since the premium was established, CMS recommends that the lower-than-anticipated spending in 2022 be incorporated into the 2023 Part B premium determination. The Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to lowering health care costs for beneficiaries by increasing price transparency, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and connecting people to savings programs.”
Medicare Part B covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment, and certain other medical and health services not covered by Medicare Part A, which covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facility, hospice, lab tests, surgery, home health care.
As detailed in the report, when calculating the Part B premium, CMS builds in a reserve to ensure the Medicare Supplementary Medical Insurance (SMI) Trust Fund remains adequately financed for the year. In 2022, CMS appropriately built in a reserve to ensure the SMI Trust Fund could cover the potential costs of Aduhelm™ and similar drugs. At the time CMS announced the premium in Fall 2021, Aduhelm™ cost an average of $56,000 per year, and CMS had not yet issued a National Coverage Determination (NCD). After the 2022 Medicare Part B premium was set, the manufacturer of Aduhelm™ reduced the price to an average of $26,200, and CMS finalized Medicare coverage with evidence development for Aduhelm™ and similar, future FDA-approved drugs with an indication for use in treating the Alzheimer’s disease. CMS determined that reflecting these savings in the calculation of the 2023 Medicare Part B premium is the most effective way to deliver these savings back to people with Medicare Part B. CMS is still assessing other current and projected Medicare Part B costs to inform the premium recommendation for 2023, which will be announced in Fall 2022 consistent with the statutory process.
In November 2021, CMS announced that the Part B standard monthly premium increased from $148.50 in 2021 to $170.10 in 2022. This increase was driven in part by the statutory requirement to prepare for potential expenses, such as spending trends driven by COVID-19 and uncertain pricing and utilization of Aduhelm™. Despite the increase, most people with Medicare saw a significant net increase in Social Security benefits due to a higher-than-usual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in 2022.
People with Medicare coverage may be eligible for help paying their Medicare costs through the Medicare Savings Programs (MSP). CMS encourages people with Medicare to check their eligibility to receive financial assistance from MSP as they may also help pay Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments if individuals meet the eligibility criteria. People with Medicare can learn more about the Medicare Savings Programs by calling 1-800-MEDICARE or visiting Medicare.gov at https://www.medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/get-help-paying-costs/medicare-savings-programs.
The report and analysis of the reexamination of the 2022 Medicare Part B premium is available at www.cms.gov/files/document/cms-report-secretary-2022-medicare-part-b-premium-reexamination.pdf.
New Playbook for Building Healthy Rural Places Published
The national nonprofit Build Healthy Places Network (BHPN) created an action-oriented guide to investment models for health care partnerships with the local community and economic development sectors in rural areas. After interviewing dozens of experts, BHPN shares case studies from all over the country highlighting core strategies used by rural healthcare entities as examples for future multi-sector partnerships to follow.
The Best Practice Guide on Telehealth for Rural Areas Released
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recently posted the guide on Telehealth.HHS.Gov. The strategy for developing a rural telehealth program includes how to get started, developing a telehealth workflow, billing, preparing patients for a new way to get health care, and gaining access to the internet.
HRSA Publishes Criteria for Determining Maternity Care Health Professional Target Areas
On May 19, HRSA finalized the criteria to identify Maternity Care Target Areas (MCTA). MCTAs are geographic areas within health professional shortage areas (HPSAs) that have a shortage of maternity care health professionals, for the purpose of providing maternity health care assistance to such health professional shortage areas. As of 2017, 59 percent of HPSAs were in rural areas.
A New Study Shows Racial/Ethnic Differences in Adverse and Positive Childhood Experiences Across Rural Communities
This study from the Rural and Minority Health Research Center examined whether adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and positive childhood experiences (PCEs) varied by race/ethnicity among rural children. Among the findings: there were higher rates of four or more ACEs among racial/ethnic minority children living in rural areas; Asian/Pacific Islander rural children had the highest rates of three out of six ACEs: parental death, witnessing neighborhood violence, and economic hardship.
Heat-Related Illness: Knowing the Signs
As temperatures rise, the newly formed federal Office of Climate Change and Health Equity is tracking areas of the country expected to experience a high number of extremely hot days over the next few months. The health impacts of a heatwave like the one that hit states in the Northwest last summer, go beyond dehydration and heat stroke to include: increased hospitalizations for heart disease, worsening asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and even an increase in violence, crime, and suicide. Last month, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services awarded $385 million to help households lower cooling and heating costs. Learn more online about the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
CMS Advancing Rural Maternal Health Equity
The Office of Minority Health at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) provides a high-level summary of its Rural Maternal Health Initiative implemented between June 2019 and November 2021. The effort comes from the CMS Rural Health initiative, established in 2016 to meet the needs specific to these areas.
Answering the call: 988 Lifeline Suicide & Crisis Network Jobs
On July 16, 2022, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) will transition to an easy-to-remember, 3-digit number (988). To strengthen and expand the existing network of over 200 locally operated and funded crisis centers across the country, the Lifeline suicide & crisis network is looking to bring on new volunteers and paid employees to receive training to answer calls, chats, and texts from people in crisis. Since 1999, suicide rates in rural areas have been consistently higher than those in metropolitan areas.
The Implications of Long COVID for Rural Communities
Researchers from the Center for Rural Health Research at East Tennessee State University report that higher rates of infection and lagging vaccinations mean that the lingering effects, now called long COVID, are likely to have a disproportionate effect on rural communities. While symptoms and severity of long COVID can range from mild to severe, the potential impact on mental health, social function, and the ability to keep working can be substantial. Watch a presentation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on evaluating and supporting patients with cognitive symptoms following COVID.