Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

The FCC is Making Changes to Its Program for Rural Health

  Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced efforts to make it easier for rural healthcare providers to access funding for high-speed broadband connections and telecommunications services.  Four new proposals for the FCC’s Rural Health Care Program are intended to make it easier for providers to receive support, reduce delays in funding commitments, and improve the overall efficiency of the program.  Public response to FCC proposals in February 2022 brought about the current changes that include the way service rates are determined and invoiced.  The Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking announced on January 26 includes fine-tuning rules for determining rural and urban rates, and making it easier for healthcare providers to receive funding as soon as they become eligible.

There is a Special Enrollment Period for Consumers Losing Medicaid or CHIP Coverage 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a Special Enrollment Period for qualified beneficiaries of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Between March 31, 2023, and July 31, 2024, CMS will allow Marketplace-eligible consumers to submit a new application or update an existing application through A recently released study, conducted pre-pandemic, showed that nearly two-thirds of disenrolled beneficiaries had a period of uninsurance.  Healthcare providers and other community-based organizations can assist with outreach to individuals and families who may lose coverage. To help you better understand what states can do, the nonprofit State Health & Value Strategies provides two resources for state Medicaid agencies, state-based marketplaces, labor departments, and employers.  The first is an issue brief discussing strategies for helping people understand and navigate their coverage options.  A companion brief describes the importance of a Medicaid disenrollment survey to monitor coverage changes (p. 4) associated with the unwinding of continuous enrollment.

Volunteer Opportunity for Dental Professionals in Pennsylvania

The Remote Area Medical (RAM) Volunteer Corps is hosting a clinic on March 25th and 26th at Penns Valley Elementary Intermediate School in Spring Mills, PA. Free dental, vision, and medical services will be provided on a first-come, first-serve basis. RAM is seeking volunteers to work the event. They offer first-come, first-serve free lodging for out-of-town providers, and meals are provided to volunteers during the clinic day.

Click here to view the event flyer.
Click here for more volunteer information.

Celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month! This month-long national health observance brings together thousands of dedicated professionals, healthcare providers, and educators to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their caregivers, teachers and many others. Check out the American Dental Association website for posters, postcards, flyers, and activity sheets.

Click here for resources and to learn more.

Pennsylvania Report Addresses Rural Oral Health Access Issues

The Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) released a report that analyzed the state of dentistry in rural Pennsylvania and found that the state has a growing problem with access to dental care. To combat those trends and problems, the report suggests some financial changes, as well as expanding technological use.

PCOH was excited to assist the LBFC on this report as the lead stakeholder.

Click here to download the report.

FAQs Published on SEP for Consumers Losing Medicaid Coverage due to Medicaid Unwinding

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced a Marketplace Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for qualified individuals and their families who are losing Medicaid coverage due to the end of the “continuous enrollment condition” – also known as “unwinding.”*

This SEP, referred to as the “Unwinding SEP,” will allow individuals and families in states served by and who are impacted by unwinding, to enroll in Marketplace coverage. CMS will update Marketplace enrollment platforms ( and Direct Enrollment/Enhanced Direct Enrollment pathways) so that Marketplace-eligible consumers who submit a new application or update an existing application between March 31, 2023 and July 31, 2024 and attest that they have lost Medicaid or CHIP coverage at any point during this time period are eligible for this Unwinding SEP. Consumers who are eligible for the Unwinding SEP will have 60 days after they submit or update their application to select a plan with coverage that starts the first day of the month after they select a plan. For example, if someone selects a plan on August 20, their coverage will start on September 1.

To read the FAQs about this new SEP, click the link. Medicaid Unwinding SEP FAQs

As a reminder, millions of consumers may soon be eligible for Marketplace coverage, and you should be ready to assist them! Many consumers who lose Medicaid coverage will be directed to apply for coverage through the Marketplace. Redeterminations can begin as early as February 1 with the first terminations effective April 1. People who receive advance notice of an April 1 termination may start enrolling in Marketplace coverage immediately to ensure continuity of coverage.

The Marketplace will continue to share updates and information for assisters throughout the coming months regarding the Unwinding Period. To learn more, see this CMS Informational Bulletin.

New CAH Coordination of Care Brief Released

The Flex Monitoring Team released a new policy brief, Care Coordination and Community Partnerships for Cancer Care in Critical Access Hospitals. This brief presents data from a survey of 135 CAHs across the U.S. and provides specific data on care coordination services provided in CAHs and staff providing these services, as well as information related to CAH partnerships with community organizations in community cancer initiatives.

Data Updates Announced by the Pennsylvania Data Center

New Brief Highlights Changes to Urban Areas in Pennsylvania

The U.S. Census Bureau released an updated list of urban areas, boundary maps and other related material this month. Read more on our Research Briefs page or click here to go straight to the brief.

Census Bureau Updates

  • American Community Survey 2017-2021 5-Year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) Released

The 2017-2021 ACS 5-year PUMS were released this month. PUMS files allow data users to create custom estimates and tables that are not available through ACS pretabulated data products. Click here to explore options for accessing the latest data.

  • New ACS Data Products Available for the 118th Congress

The Census Bureau released new social, economic, housing, and demographic statistics for the 118th Congress. The four Data Profiles are available for all 435 congressional districts and are available in the Census Bureau’s FTP site and through a web-based lookup tool on the ACS website.

  • American Community Survey Migration Flows

The U.S. Census Bureau released new data tables from the 2016-2020 American Community Survey (ACS) highlighting the geographic mobility of people. Click here to learn more.

  • Census Bureau and AmeriCorps Released the Civic Engagement and Volunteering Supplement

Click here to access the 2021 Current Population Survey (CPS), Civic Engagement and Volunteering (CVC) Supplement Microdata File. This is the most robust longitudinal survey about volunteerism and other forms of civic engagement in the United States.

Federal Administration Proposes New Rules to Expand Access to Birth Control Coverage Under the Affordable Care Act

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and the Departments of Labor and the Treasury (Departments) proposed a rule to strengthen access to birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Under the ACA, most plans are required to offer coverage of birth control with no out-of-pocket cost.  To date, millions of women have benefited from this coverage. Today’s rule proposes to expand and strengthen access to this coverage so that all women who need or want birth control are able to obtain it. The action is the latest effort by the Biden-Harris Administration to bolster access to birth control at no cost.

The ACA and its implementing regulations guarantee coverage of women’s preventive services, including birth control and contraceptive counseling, at no cost for women who are enrolled in group health plans or individual health insurance coverage.

The proposed rules are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to ensuring access to reproductive health care and follows earlier action to expand access to birth control and family planning services. HHS, the Department of Labor, and the Department of the Treasury previously convened a meeting with health insurers and called on the industry to commit to meeting their obligations to provide contraceptive coverage as required by the ACA. The Departments also issued guidance to clarify protections for birth control coverage under the ACA following multiple states’ efforts to restrict access to contraception in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. HHS also announced nearly $3 million in new funding to bolster training and technical assistance for the nationwide network of Title X family planning providers.

The full report can be read at – PDF.