Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Study Published: Education in Rural Areas Increases Tendency to Practice There

A study by researchers from the Cecil Sheps Center for Health Services at the University of North Carolina and the National Rural Recruitment and Retention Network (3RNET) analyzed survey data from licensed clinicians working in rural safety net practices across 21 states from 2015 to 2022. They found that nearly two-thirds of the 778 survey respondents had, during their formal education, experienced medically underserved populations in rural counties. This clearly links educational opportunities in rural areas with clinicians’ likelihood to eventually practice in rural areas. These results support the integration of clinicians within these communities for longer retention in rural safety net practices. Read more on preparing behavioral health clinicians for success and retention in rural safety net practices.

Health Care Has a Discrimination Problem

More than half of healthcare workers say racial discrimination against patients is a major problem or crisis, while nearly half report seeing it happen in their own workplaces, according to a large national survey. Why it matters: It’s well-documented how racism in health care settings can harm patients’ health. But witnessing it can also hurt health care workers’ wellbeing. By the numbers: Black and Latino health care workers were more likely to report seeing racial or ethnic discrimination against patients compared with Asian American and Pacific Islander and white workers. There’s also a generational divide: 64% of health care workers ages 18 to 29 said they’ve seen patients face discrimination, compared with 25% of workers 60 and older. Nearly half of healthcare workers (48%) said medical professionals are more accepting when white patients advocate for themselves than when Black patients do the same. Healthcare systems should make it easier for workers and patients to submit anonymous reports, train staff to recognize unfair treatment, and introduce more opportunities to listen to patients and workers of color, the report said. Click here to read more.

Wellspan Is Rolling Out Pennsylvania’s First Med Delivery by Drone

WellSpan Health is partnering with Zipline, the world’s largest autonomous delivery service, to use Zipline’s electric, autonomous drones to transport prescriptions directly to patients’ homes and move lab samples and medical products between its facilities. WellSpan is the first health system to introduce this type of technology and delivery system at scale in Pennsylvania. Read more.

CBO Finds Increased Health Center Funding = Overall Savings

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), for the first time, has officially recognized that investments in primary care save taxpayer dollars! Increased funding for health centers is associated with lower spending on emergency departments, hospitalizations, and other expensive outpatient services in the CBO’s cost estimate of the Bipartisan Primary Care and Health Workforce Act (S. 2840). In addition, the House Budget Committee advanced H.R. 766, the Preventative Health Savings Act, which would revamp how the CBO determines the financial cost of preventative health care, making it easier for Congress to pass larger funding increases for health centers.

CMS Offers New Vaccine Coverage and Payment Toolkit

A new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) toolkit, Coverage and Payment of Vaccines and Vaccine Administration under Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Basic Health Program (PDF), can help you understand coverage, cost-sharing, and payment for vaccines and vaccine administration. It addresses the federally funded Vaccines for Children program and assists in navigating vaccination coverage requirements. It also offers guidance regarding the commercialization of COVID-19 vaccines and the end of the American Rescue Plan Act COVID-19 vaccination coverage period (September 2024).

Heads Up – HRSA Implements New Payment Management System Login Process

In response to recent incidents of fraudulent activity and to strengthen the federal Payment Management System (PMS), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Office of Federal Assistance Management (OFAM) has implemented a new login process for grant recipients and federal awarding agency staff. The user login process now includes a multi-factor authentication tool called ID.me. This change, already in effect, aims to strengthen the system’s identity verification of all PMS users. Read more in a bulletin published by HRSA’s Office of Federal Assistance Management (OFAM).

HRSA Implements New EHB Registration Processes

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Office of Information Technology recently upgraded the agency’s Electronic Handbooks (EHBs) to increase security. New registrations will require the person named as an Authorizing Official in the EHBs to confirm registration requests. For example, the official could approve adding a new employee, giving that person access to the information within the EHBs. These changes only apply to future registrations. No action is required for people who are already registered. Starting next month, Authorizing Officials will be prompted to do an annual review of EHBs registrations, allowing them to remove any people who are no longer with the organization. To learn more about these changes, watch the “EHBs External User Organization Process Changes” video on HRSAtube. The HRSA website includes additional resources to help you use the EHBs, including a library of videos and FAQs.

Congress Introduces Workforce Innovation Act

The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) is endorsing a new bill that will support health center workforce needs. Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY) and Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN) introduced the bipartisan Health Care Workforce Innovation Act (H.R. 7307) earlier this month. The bill would authorize a new grant program to scale up health center-led workforce development programs, such as partnerships with schools, more preceptorships, and innovative career laddering programs. Click here for a link to Rep. Molinaro’s press release.

FTC/HHS Seek Feedback on Drug Wholesaler and GPO Contributions to Drug Pricing and Shortages

Federal regulators are seeking more information about drug wholesalers and group purchasing organizations (GPOs) as they investigate pharmaceutical pricing and generic drug shortages. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week issued a request for information, seeking input from the public on whether GPOs and wholesalers are complying with antitrust laws, if GPOs’ exemption from a federal law that bans kickbacks affects market concentration and drug shortages, and if the dominant market share of several GPOs and wholesalers has limited competition, among other topics. The move comes as regulators and Congress continue to probe pharmaceutical intermediaries, which have been blamed for drug shortages and exorbitant drug prices. The 60-day deadline to submit public comments at Regulations.gov is April 15. All comments submitted will be posted to Regulations.gov. Learn more by reviewing the FTC press release on the RFI.

Notes Published on the Pennsylvania Human Services Executive Budget

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) budget is a mixture of state and federal funding. Each year, DHS is involved in the state budget process where annual funding for the department’s programs and services are expected to be determined by June 30. To learn more about the budget process in Pennsylvania, visit the Office of the Budget. Each year, DHS publishes the “Blue Book,” which provides additional details on the Governor’s budget proposal as it relates to programs managed by DHS. The “Blue Book” is available on the DHS website, prior to the DHS budget hearings in front of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees on March 5 and March 6 respectively. Click here for the slides from DHS’ presentation. A recording is available on DHS’ YouTube page.