Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

The Affordable Connectivity Program is Accepting Applications

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program that provides funds and discounts for families and households struggling to afford internet service. Those living in households where the household income is below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line are likely eligible but can check their household’s eligibility. Eligible households may receive the assistance of up to $30 a month in discounts for broadband service, and/or a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop, computer, or tablet purchased through a participating provider. Click here to apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program and learn more.

New Pitt Apprenticeship Program Aims to Address the Dental Assistant Shortage

The University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine has been awarded state funding to train dental assistants through a paid 14-month paid apprenticeship, which also covers tuition and exam fees. The new program, which is funded through a PAsmart grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, is partnering with Pittsburgh Public Schools to recruit the first cohort of six students. The program will focus on attracting underrepresented minority students from high schools in Allegheny County, as well as the surrounding counties of Butler, Beaver, Washington, and Westmoreland. The first cohort of students is expected to start in January 2023. Find more information about the apprenticeship and instructions to apply.

“All of Us” Participants ReceivingPersonalized DNA Results

The National Institutes of Health’s “All of Us” Research Program has begun returning personalized health-related DNA results to more than 155,000 participants, with reports detailing whether participants have an increased risk for specific health conditions and how their bodies might process certain medications. This marks a major milestone for the program, delivering on its promise to share information and return value to participants. “All of Us” aims to partner with at least 1 million people who reflect the diversity of the United States to accelerate medical breakthroughs. About 80% of “All of Us” participants represent communities that have been historically underrepresented in medical research and nearly 50% of “All of Us” participants identify with a racial or ethnic minority group. The program started returning genetic ancestry and trait results to participants in December 2020. So far, the program has offered genetic ancestry and traits results to more than 175,000 participants and continues to return about 6,000 results each month. Learn more.

Legislation Moves to Relax Take-Home Opioid Use Disorder Treatment 

The Biden administration is moving to make permanent the pandemic rules that allowed take-home drugs to help fight opioid addiction. The proposed rule from HHS would make it easier for patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) to access drugs like methadone for home use and for providers to prescribe them via telehealth for patients with OUD. This change comes amid a broader administration push to address the opioid crisis — and while the Food and Drug Administration is reviewing whether to make a nasal spray for reversing opioid overdoses available without a prescription. “Enabling creative, effective strategies, such as telemedicine, is critical to reducing the number of overdose deaths in our country, particularly in underserved areas, and ending the overdose crisis,” a group of attorneys general from 44 states and the District of Columbia said in a letter last month calling for the extension.

The Number of Uninsured Children Improved Slightly During the Pandemic

The number of uninsured children in Pennsylvania improved during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to the federal continuous coverage provision that prevents states from disenrolling children and families from Medicaid during the public health emergency, according to the State of Children’s Health report by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. Pennsylvania’s child uninsured rate improved to 4.4% from 4.6% between 2019 and 2021 as families weathered the pandemic storm under the umbrella of public health coverage, with Medicaid enrollees having uninterrupted access to health insurance that connects them to doctor visits, immunizations, and well-visits that screen for physical and mental health. Learn more.

CMS Requests Public Input on Essential Health Benefits

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a request for information (RFI) on the coverage of benefits in health plans that are subject to the Essential Health Benefit (EHB) requirements, as part of the Affordable Care Act. CMS wants public input on topics such as the description of the EHB, the scope of benefits covered in typical employer plans, the review of EHB, coverage of prescription drugs, and substitution of EHB. NACHC will review and provide a comment letter template; comments are due Jan. 30, 2023. 

HHS Releases 2024 Benefits and Payment Parameters Proposed Rule

These proposed rules focus on expanding access to healthcare options under the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplaces. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposes that beginning January 1, 2024, Marketplaces have the option to implement a new special rule for consumers losing Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage. Of special note, CMS also proposes to permit assisters to conduct door-to-door enrollment to increase consumer engagement and advance health equity. Included in the proposed rule is to revise network adequacy and essential community provider (ECP) standards and expand access to care for low-income and medically underserved consumers by establishing two additional major ECP categories for Plan Year 2024 and beyond: Mental Health Facilities and Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Treatment Centers. Beginning in 2024, this rule would allow marketplaces the ability to modify auto re-enrollment for those eligible for cost-sharing reductions who would normally be auto-enrolled into a bronze plan but instead be automatically re-enrolled into a silver plan in the same product with a lower or equivalent premium. In addition, CMS proposes minor updates to standardized plans, including placing all covered generic drugs in a cost-sharing tier.

The U.S. Senate Requests Comment on Serving Dual Eligibles

The Senate recently released a request for information to understand challenges related to serving individuals dually eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare. NACHC needs your help describing the barriers to care for dually eligible for health center patients and how federal legislation can create change on a national level. Challenges can include care coordination, service integration, addressing social determinants of health and adequate reimbursement. To inform NACHC’s comment letter, please review and share feedback by Dec. 23 using the submission form.

Pennsylvania Is Making More Forms of Naloxone Available

State physician general Dr. Denise Johnson issued a standing order asking pharmacies to dispense naloxone without a prescription, including a new injectable form. Dr. Johnson is encouraging pharmacies to carry different forms of naloxone, including the “epi-pen like” form as well as a nasal spray.