Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Brief Released on a National Initiative to Address COVID-19 Heath Disparities

The Southwest Rural Health Research Center released the results of a qualitative study on a CDC COVID grant, “National Initiative to Address COVID-19 Health Disparities Among Populations at High-Risk and Underserved, Including Racial and Ethnic Minority Populations and Rural Communities.”

The grant included a financial “carve-out” designed to provide support to rural areas (approximately 19%, or $427m allocated of the grant’s total funding) which required recipients “who serve rural communities” to “define these communities and describe how they will provide direct support (e.g., funding, programs, or services) to those communities.” State government recipients were also required to “engage their State Office of Rural Health or equivalent, in planning and implementing their activities.”

Key findings from the study:

  • “The CDC’s COVID-19 rural carve-out, which explicitly designates a portion of funds for rural areas, has widespread support among stakeholders, with most encouraging the use of carveouts for future grant programs as well.
  • The development of the carve -out at the CDC was a complex and multi-faceted process, in part because it was a new type of funding mechanism.
  • The carve-out has provided many leaders in State Offices of Rural Health a ‘seat at the table’ in state public health decision-making.
  • Funds are being used in interesting and creative ways, but it is too soon to evaluate the impact of funds on rural communities.
  • Despite program support, the rural carve-out has seen some challenges tied to rural administrative capacity, sustainability, and timing, as has been seen with other rural health initiatives during the pandemic.”

2022 County Total Population Estimates Released

The U.S. Census Bureau released today estimates of the total population as of July 1, 2022 at the county level which include both county totals as well as components of population change: births, deaths, and migration.

The Pennsylvania State Data Center’s latest brief explores changes in total county population from the April 1, 2020 Estimates Base to the July 1, 2022 Population Estimate. Key highlights include:

  • Twenty-seven counties grew in population while forty declined
  • Cumberland County remained fastest growing county since 2020 (+3.5%)
  • Philadelphia (-36,541) and Allegheny (-17,332) counties saw largest losses

Click here to read more in this month’s brief.

New Brief Released: Financial Risk Acceptance Among Rural Health Care Providers Participating in the Quality Payment Program

This policy brief summarizes non-metropolitan and metropolitan health care providers’ participation in different tracks and subdivisions in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Quality Payment Program and evaluates provider and patient-panel characteristics associated with financial risk acceptance.

Click here to open the full document.


New Reports Sent to Congress on Medicare and Medicaid Payment Policy

  The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) and the Medicaid and CHIP Payment Advisory Commission (MACPAC) submit annual reports to Congress with analyses and recommendations from Commissioners on Medicare and Medicaid, respectively.  In their March report, MedPAC highlights Medicare and total operating margins for rural and urban hospitals and recommends a new Medicare Safety Net Index to identify safety net hospitals and direct payments to them.  MACPAC examines Medicaid’s Disproportionate Share of Hospital (DSH) payments to rural and urban hospitals.

New Key Findings Released on Crowded Housing and Housing Cost Burden by Disability, Race, Ethnicity, and Rural-Urban Location

  Among the key findings in this report from the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center: A higher proportion of urban adults (18.8 percent) live in crowded housing than rural adults (14.4 percent), with differences by race and ethnicity. Urban Hispanic adults have the highest proportion in crowded housing, followed by both rural Hispanic adults and rural American Indian adults.

HHS Climate Pledge Reopens

 The initiative, launched by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services last April, asks hospitals, health systems, and other industry stakeholders to make efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase their communities’ climate resilience.  The pledge is one part of a larger HHS effort to consider the impact that climate change has on the entire country and take steps toward sustainability. A recent article in The Appalachian Voice describes the impact of climate change in rural mountain communities.  Watch a video that explains what the healthcare sector can do and sign the pledge by Wednesday, April 12 to be recognized in an Earth Day announcement.

FCC Publishes Request for Comment on Proposed Changes to the Universal Service Rural Health Program

  In January, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an order and further notice of proposed rulemaking (FNPRM) (FCC 23-6) to amend Universal Service Rural Health Care (RHC) Program rules.  The order restored the method of calculating rural and urban rates as it existed before the adoption of the 2019 Rule and Order that created a rates database.  It also simplified invoicing procedures and altered priority rules if the program cannot fully fund all applications submitted.  The FNPRM sought comment on new application data collection plans to verify that the requested support is consistent with prevailing charges for similar telecommunications services in the area.  It also proposed capping support for satellite service at the level of terrestrial service, proposes changes to expedite new healthcare provider review, and proposed other changes to streamline the application process.  The order and FNPRM were published in the Federal Register on March 23, 2023, starting a 30-day public comment period (ending April 24, 2023) and a subsequent 30-day reply comment period (ending May 22, 2023) for people to comment on other filer’s comments.  Interested parties may comment in the Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) under WC Docket No. 17-310 at:

A Recent Survey of State Policies on Medicaid Unwinding Has Been Released

This report presents findings from a survey of state Medicaid and CHIP program officials conducted by Kaiser Family Foundation and the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families on actions states are taking to prepare for the lifting of the Medicaid continuous enrollment provision (aka unwinding), as of January 2023.  The report summarizes state policies on outreach to enrollees, staff capacity, and plans to monitor the impact of the unwinding on enrollment, and the tables show state-level policies on these issues.  Nearly a quarter of individuals under age 65 who live in rural areas are covered by Medicaid.