Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Are You Trying to Make Sense of it All? Find COVID-19 Vaccine Bridge Access Programs Here!

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has created the HHS Bridge Access Program which encompasses both the CDC Bridge Access Program and the Health Center Bridge Funding Program.

The CDC Bridge Access Program will temporarily provide no-cost 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine for adults without health insurance and adults with insurance that does not cover all COVID-19 vaccine costs. Health center patients can access the 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine at health centers, safety-net, and public health providers designated by state and local health departments, and more than 20,000 retail pharmacy locations nationwide. Provider Education Resources include a communications toolkit and FAQs.

The Health Center Bridge Funding Program is one-time funding with a 16-month period of performance (Sept. 1, 2023 – Dec. 31, 2024). Activities must be related to COVID-19 services, such as COVID-19 testing, vaccination, therapeutics, enabling/patient support services to support COVID-19 related services, community vaccination events, personnel who support COVID-19 related services, and supplies that support COVID-19-related“ services. However, health centers must make every effort to get free COVID supplies from the CDC Bridge Access Program and HRSAs Testing Supply and Therapeutics Programs. Health Center Bridge Funding post-award submission is due in electronic handbooks on Oct. 2, 2023. Health centers can submit programmatic questions via the BPHC Contact Form.


Additionally, HHS issued a provider letter reviewing the necessary steps to take to discontinue the public health emergency-era CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program. The letter includes a reminder that with the approval of 2023-2024 monovalent XBB.1.5 variant mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, Bivalent Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA 

This New Bulletin Provides Updates to Childhood Nutrition and Weight Management Services

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Office of Medical Assistance Programs has issued a new bulletin. The purpose of this bulletin is to advise providers enrolled in the Medical Assistance (MA) Program of the expansion of Childhood Nutrition and Weight Management Services (CNWMS) for MA beneficiaries under 21 years of age to include pharmacotherapy as a result of changes to coverage of obesity drugs and updated guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The bulletin also addresses coding changes as a result of the 2023 Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) updates.

The Rate of the Uninsured Dropped to 5.3% in 2022

The uninsured rate in Pennsylvania dropped to 5.3% in 2022, down from 5.5% in 2021, according to new data from the Census Bureau. Only 10 states had lower uninsured rates in 2022 – Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. Twenty-seven states had a higher percentage of people with health insurance coverage in 2022 than in 2021 according to American Community Survey (ACS) 1-year estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. In terms of uninsured rates, or the rate of people without health insurance, Maine was the only state where the uninsured rate increased (up to 6.6% in 2022, from 5.7%). Between 2021 and 2022, the rate of public coverage increased in Pennsylvania and 12 other states (Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, and Virginia) and decreased in one (Rhode Island). Oklahoma had one of the highest increases in public coverage (up 2.3 percentage points) from 2021 to 2022.

Health Insurance Marketplaces are Trying to Reverse Decades of Racism in the Insurance Industry

Health insurance brokers play an important role in getting Americans covered, but they often aren’t representative of the communities they serve. Some state health insurance marketplaces are working to address these racial disparities, say Georgetown University’s Jalisa Clark and Christine H. Monahan on To the Point. Connecticut, for example, has created a “broker academy” to recruit from historically underserved communities and train people to become life and health insurance brokers. The program “aspires to establish a more diverse and trusted broker industry, provide individuals with at least a high-school-level education access to a stable and profitable career, and help increase insurance coverage rates in underserved communities,” the authors write. Washington State is also planning to launch its own broker academy, while other states are engaging existing brokers to improve outreach into communities of color. Pennie has begun an initiative to recruit diverse brokers through similar initiatives. Read More.

Medicaid Automatic Household Renewals Are Becoming an Issue

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a State Medicaid Director Letter on August 30, 2023, instructing states to determine whether they are following federal Medicaid regulations that require all renewals be conducted at the individual level. This is a result of the growing concerns surrounding “family-level” automatic renewals/disenrollments that are causing children to lose insurance coverage at alarming rates. CMS instructed state Medicaid agencies to determine if their systems have a “family-level” renewal error and to take steps to mitigate its impact.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Office of Minority Health Releases a Video, Coverage to Care – Roadmap to Better Care

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Office of Minority Health has released an animated video to help patients and consumers under their healthcare coverage. The Roadmap to Better Care is a guide that includes confirming coverage with the health plan, knowing the difference between primary and emergency care, filling prescriptions, and scheduling follow-up visits. The resources are available in 9 languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.

Medicare Open Enrollment Begins October 15

For 2024 coverage, open enrollment for Medicare begins October 15 and ends December 7. During the annual enrollment period, all people with Medicare can change their Medicare health plans and prescription drug coverage for the following year to better meet their needs. Consumers can get plan information or compare plans on or by calling their local PA MEDI office at 1-800-783-7067. Our community health centers also assist consumers with enrolling consumers in the Low-Income Subsidy program, also known as Extra Help under the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, and the Medicare Savings program through funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Aging.

Governor Shapiro Implements Automatic Voter Registration in Pennsylvania

Governor Josh Shapiro announced that Pennsylvania has implemented automatic voter registration (AVR) for eligible Commonwealth residents obtaining driver’s licenses and ID cards at Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) driver and photo license centers. By implementing AVR, Pennsylvania joins a group of 23 states that have taken this step to promote election security and save taxpayers time and money. Commonwealth residents who are obtaining new or renewed driver’s licenses and ID cards and are eligible to vote will be automatically taken through the voter registration application process unless they opt out of doing so. Previously, eligible voters were required to take additional steps to opt into the voter registration process. Today’s changes also increase access to voter registration by adding instructions in five more languages, for a total of 31 languages.

Democrats Will Retain One-Seat Majority in Pennsylvania House

Democrats will retain their narrow majority in the state House after Democrat Lindsay Powell won a special election for the seat representing the 21st Legislative District in Allegheny County. The chamber has been evenly divided with 101 Democrats and 101 Republicans since Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny, resigned in July to focus on her campaign for county executive. Powell is the Director of Workforce Strategies for InnovatePGH, an economic development nonprofit, and a former aide to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and former Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto. Powell will complete the remainder of Innamorato’s two-year term and be up for reelection next year.

A New Report Has Been Released Analyzing Rural Syringe Service Programs in Appalachian Kentucky

  A study published in The Journal of Rural Health is based on interviews with clients and staff at five syringe service programs.  Questions covered the fidelity of implementation to six core components of syringe service programs, including meeting needs for harm reduction supplies, cooperation with local law enforcement, and ensuring low threshold access to services.