Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

In Case You Missed It: FORHP Preview

Thank you for attending the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy’s 2024 Preview Webinar on April 3rd.  Over 400 participants joined to hear about our anticipated funding opportunities and “hidden gems” – resources and projects that may not be well-known. Here, we’re providing a recording of the hour-long session.

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CMS Releases Hospital Interpretive Guidelines for Informed Consent

Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) updated this guidance to clarify that informed consent from patients is required before medical students or other students perform important surgical tasks, invasive procedures, or examinations. This guidance specifically references hospital enforced consent obligations in response to increasing public attention to the traditional practice of allowing practitioners or supervised medical, advanced practice provider, or other applicable students to perform examinations to training -related examinations outside the medically necessary procedure, particularly on anesthetized patients.

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CMS Announces 2025 Medicare Advantage and Part D Payment Rates

In finalizing changes to payment policies for these programs, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) estimates an increase in Medicare Advantage plan revenues by an average 3.7 percent, or over $16 billion, from 2024 to 2025. The notice implements changes to the Part C risk adjustment model finalized in the CY 2024 final rule. The changes will be phased in over a three-year period. CMS also finalized technical updates to the Part C and D star ratings and will implement changes to the standard Part D drug benefit required by the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. This includes capping annual out-of-pocket costs for people with Medicare Part D at $2,000 in 2025. Finally, CMS reminds stakeholders the agency seeks public input on Medicare Advantage Data – comment by May 29.

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CMS Issues Final Rule for 2025 Medicare Advantage and Part D Prescription Drug Program

The changes from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are intended to improve access to behavioral health care; cap and standardize MA plan compensation to brokers which includes prohibiting volume-based bonuses for enrollment into certain plans; streamline enrollment for individuals dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid; and annually review MA utilization management policies for health equity considerations. Medicare Advantage enrollments continue to become a significant form of insurance coverage for Medicare eligible rural enrollees with 45.1 percent of nonmetropolitan eligible beneficiaries are enrolled in a MA plan (November 2023 RURPI Rural Policy Brief). Additionally, MA enrollment grew by 7.7 percent (2.2 million) from 2022 to 2023; the highest rate of growth was observed in non-metropolitan counties.

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Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2025 Marketplaces Released

The final rule from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sets standards for Marketplaces and issuers, as well as requirements for agents, brokers, web-brokers, direct enrollment entities, and assisters that help Marketplace consumers. The rule includes policies that extend the special enrollment period for low-income people to enroll in coverage in any month rather than only during Open Enrollment, provides states the ability to increase access to routine adult dental services such as cleanings, diagnostic X-rays, and restorative services like fillings and root canals, and sets network adequacy standards for the time and distance people travel to appointments with in-network providers. The rule standardizes certain operations across the Marketplaces to increase reliability and consistency for consumers. Lastly, the rule includes several policies impacting the Medicaid program, Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Basic Health Program.

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An Observational Study of Physicians and Nurse Practitioners Providing MAT

Researchers used data from electronic license renewals in 2021 to examine what factors affect the likelihood of providing medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder.  Physicians and nurse practitioners who were younger, practiced in a public or community health center, and offered a sliding fee scale in their practice had a greater likelihood of providing MAT.  The study builds on previous research showing a lack of mental health services, professional burnout, and stigma associated with lower rates of MAT provision in rural areas, with a further look at organizational and personal barriers to prescribing.

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ERS Shares Research on the Widening Gap in Urban-Rural Mortality

The Economic Research Service (ERS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture analyzed natural-cause mortality data for adults aged 25-54 from two three-year periods – 1999 through 2001 and 2017 through 2019.  Researchers found that the mortality rate from natural causes such as chronic disease and cancer in rural areas was only 6 percent higher than for city dwellers during the first period, but the gap widened to 43 percent by 2019.

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