Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Anti-Bias Rules Are Set to Take Effect in Pennsylvania

More than a year after they entered the regulatory pipeline, the state’s strongest-ever protections for LGBTQ people are slated to take effect in August. The anti-discrimination rules expand the definition of sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. Other provisions provide expanded definitions for race and religious creed. Previously, the terms had been largely undefined in the state’s two main anti-discrimination laws, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act. The laws bar discrimination in employment, education, housing, commercial property, and public accommodations. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission published the new rules in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. The rules are scheduled to take effect on August 16. State lawmakers, meanwhile, are still hoping to pass a bill called The Fairness Act, which would ban discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity, real or perceived.

Proposed Changes Have Been Announced to Oral Health Performance Measures

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is proposing to transition oral health from an NPM (National Performance Measure) to an SPM (State Performance Measure). HRSA believes that states are better equipped to measure and improve oral health than the federal government. This newly imposed rule may reduce the visibility of oral health, no longer presenting this issue as a national priority, which could lead to reduced funding and support. Comments on the proposed change should be received by July 5. Please submit your comments here.

Proposed Rule on Prescription Drug Transparency in Medicaid Has Been Announced

CMS released a proposed rule that impacts the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program and other Medicaid drug pricing, reimbursement, and data collection issues. Among the proposals, addressing spread pricing by pharmacy benefit managers and identification of 340B drugs on managed care pharmacy identification cards are of the most interest to FQHCs. NACHC will host office hours later this month to go over the proposed rule – details to come. Comments on the rule are due by July 25.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Goes into Effect Next Week

Mark your calendar: The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) goes into effect on June 27. Under the PWFA, employers with 15 or more employees must engage in the interactive process with pregnant employees and make reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions — as long as the accommodations do not pose an undue hardship on the employer. Read this article on the PWFA from HRMorning.

New Pennsylvania Human Services Federal Unwinding Reports Have Been Published

The Department of Human Services (DHS) has published two reports required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Pennsylvania’s Medicaid unwinding. The first report is a point-in-time baseline report with pending data. The second report is a monthly snapshot of data. Both reports are for the entire Medicaid population. A third document called the Continuous Eligibility Unwinding Plan explains how DHS will process all Medicaid and CHIP renewals. The May 2023 monthly report shows 247,827 total beneficiaries for whom a renewal was initiated during the reporting period with 254,287 due for renewal. Of those renewed and retained, 10,584 were renewed on an ex parte basis, 90,297 were renewed using a pre-populated form, 29,120 were transferred to Pennie, 24,144 individuals were terminated for procedural reasons and 100,142 renewals were not completed. To view these reports, visit the PA DHS Federal Unwinding Reports webpage.

New Brief Investigates COVID-19 Rural/Urban Mortality Rates

Spatial Clustering of COVID-19 Mortality Rates across Counties and by Noncore, Micropolitan, and Metropolitan County Characteristics, December 2020–January 2021

This policy brief examines spatial clusters of COVID-19 mortality rates across counties in the United States between December 2020 and January 2021. Between December 2020 and January 2021, COVID-19 deaths were at their peak, hospital capacity was stretched, and COVID-19 vaccines were not widely available, making this a critical time period to examine.

Key Findings:

  • Spatial clusters of high COVID-19 mortality rates occurred in Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Arizona.
  • A higher percentage of clusters of high COVID-19 mortality rates were in noncore and micropolitan counties compared to metropolitan counties.
  • High COVID-19 mortality cluster counties tended to have higher average percentages of Hispanic populations, particularly in micropolitan counties.
  • Noncore counties that were high COVID-19 mortality clusters had the highest average nursing home bed density and the highest average proportion of Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions.

Read the full brief here.