Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Is Employment Boom Losing Heat?

Axios reports that the ultra-high-pressure U.S. job market may finally be starting to release a little steam. Job numbers for May show that an overly healthy job market – with many more jobs than available or skilled candidates – seems to be moving toward a more balanced state. Employers added 390,000 jobs in May, the U.S. Department of Labor said the lowest job growth in a year. Policymakers at the Federal Reserve and in the Biden administration want to see a labor market that is still healthy but cools from its red-hot levels seen earlier in the year, which tend to fuel higher inflation. See the data from the May jobs report.

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials Offers Resources and Support for Community Health Workers

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) offers resources on how to integrate community health workers (CHWs) into public health practices and build an infrastructure for CHW workforce development. This includes exploring financing options and certification. ASTHO also offers webinars on leadership for CHWs that focus on the importance of this role in Community Health Centers and other healthcare organizations. Review ASTHO’s resources for CHWs.

The Expanded Role of FQHCs During the Pandemic Highlighted

The ways Community Health Centers are serving low-income communities during the COVID-19 pandemic are highlighted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in a new issue brief. Community health centers have seen a rise in patients seeking non-medical services such as housing, food, nutrition, and transportation during the pandemic and have added new mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) services in response to growing needs. More than half of the health centers that responded to the survey said that, amid the economic disruption of the pandemic, more patients are seeking social and supportive services that complement primary care.

There is a New 3-Digit Mental Health Crisis Hotline Launching in Pennsylvania and Across the Nation

A three-digit phone number—988—will debut in July in Pennsylvania as well as across the nation. The new number, seeking to replicate the success of the easy-to-remember 911 emergency number—will route to the crisis centers that currently respond to calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which now operates at 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK). A goal is to change the conversation around suicide, a leading cause of death, and reduce the stigma around seeking help for mental illness. The hotline will go live on July 16.

Imperative Reasons for Getting Kids Up to Date on Immunizations

Today’s kids are living in a world of risks that we could not even imagine when we were kids. While political discourse continues on how best to abate some of those risks, an old risk is rising. There are so many kids behind on childhood immunizations and more parents are now reluctant to have their kids immunized because of the COVID-19 vaccine (and other vaccines) misinformation. Most of us are blessed to have lived during a time—because of immunizations—when the diseases immunizations protect against weren’t claiming the lives of a frightening number of children. We might become complacent, but the viruses do not and welcome the opportunity to reemerge and resurge. This Washington Post article drives home the risk families face in choosing not to immunize their children.

A Few States Have an Additional Year to Use ARP Funds for Home and Community Based Services through Medicaid

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), is notifying states that they now have an additional year — through March 31, 2025 — to use funding made available by the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to enhance, expand and strengthen home- and community-based services (HCBS) for people with Medicaid who need long-term services and supports. The funding provides states with a temporary 10 percentage point increase to the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) for certain Medicaid expenditures for HCBS. As a result of the ARP increase in the federal matching rate on activities, states originally had a three-year period — from April 1, 2021, through March 31, 2024 — to use the available state funds on activities to enhance, and expand, or strengthen HCBS in Medicaid. This will allow Medicaid beneficiaries to remain in the setting of their choice—whether it is their home or another setting—and remain a valued part of their communities.

A Special Enrollment Period Proposed for Those Formerly Incarcerated Through Medicare

A new Special Enrollment Period (SEP) has been proposed that would take effect on January 1, 2023, and would allow formerly incarcerated individuals to avoid potential gaps in coverage and late enrollment penalties for the rest of their lives. Currently incarcerated individuals turning 65 are not automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and may not enroll as health care is provided through the penal institution. Those leaving incarceration after 65 may go without coverage for months after their release. Individuals would be eligible for this SEP if they demonstrate that they are eligible for Medicare and failed to enroll or reenroll in Medicare premium Part A or Part B during another enrollment period in which they were eligible to enroll while they were incarcerated. The proposed SEP would start on the day of the individual’s release from incarceration and end the last day of the sixth month after the month in which the individual is released from incarceration. Comments on the proposed rule must be received no later than 5:00 pm on June 27, 2022.

Marketplace Health Insurance Subsidies are in Jeopardy

Congress has yet to act on extending subsidies provided by the American Rescue Plan (ARP) for coverage on Marketplace coverage, including for state-based exchanges like Pennsylvania’s Pennie marketplace. Expiration of the ARP subsidies will impact the progress Pennsylvania has made in increasing enrollment and lowering the uninsured rate in Pennsylvania and nationwide. An analysis by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation projected the commonwealth could experience an approximate 12% decline in marketplace enrollment and an increase in the uninsured rate of approximately 7% from 2022 to 2023. While waiting for Congress to address this issue, enrollment assisters and consumers must brace for increased costs and confusion if subsidies are not reinstated by Open Enrollment, which begins on November 1, 2022.

The Federal Trade Commission Launches an Inquiry into Primary Benefits Management

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced it is launching an inquiry that “will shed light on” clawbacks, potentially unfair audits, rebates, and other business practices of the pharmacy benefits management (PBM) industry. The announcement says the commission will be requiring information and records regarding their business practices from the six largest PBMs: CVS Caremark, Express Scripts, OptumRx, Humana, Prime Therapeutics, and MedImpact Healthcare Systems.

Latest Dental Health Policy Insitute Workforce Poll Results Released

The American Dental Association Health Policy Institute (HPI) released the latest data from their Economic Outlook and Emerging Issues in Dentistry poll conducted between May 17-22, 2022. The data shed new light on the impact the dental staff shortage is having on practices across the country. It focuses on recruitment needs, position vacancies, and economic confidence. Core questions are also available in a new, interactive state dashboard.

Click here for more information and to check out the dashboard.