Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

The COVID-19 Mortality Rates across Noncore, Micropolitan, and Metropolitan Counties by Community Characteristics From December 2020-January 2021

  This policy brief from the RUPRI Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis examines differences in COVID-19 mortality rates across rural-urban designations and stratifications by geography, county-level sociodemographic factors, and county-level health care factors. 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.

Unwinding the Continuous Enrollment for Medicaid and CHIP

In March 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) temporarily waived certain eligibility requirements for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to help people keep their health coverage during the pandemic.  Last  year, CMS announced states would have to return to normal eligibility and enrollment operations once the official Public Health Emergency (PHE) had ended – a process referred to as “unwinding.”  Last week, it was announced that the PHE would be extended by another 90 days to mid-April.  However, new legislation calls for eligibility waivers and other pandemic-related flexibilities to end on March 31, 2023.  See the communications toolkit for a plain-language explanation that will help both policymakers and beneficiaries understand Unwinding, and attend monthly webinars (Events section, below) held by CMS to get help with the process.

HRSA Starts a Payment Program for RHC Buprenorphine-Trained Providers

  Clinicians no longer need DATA 2000 Waiver training to prescribe buprenorphine; however, the payment program to defray earlier training costs is still active.  Launched in June 2021, the initiative pays for providers who previously received a waiver to prescribe buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid use disorder.  Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) still have the opportunity to apply for a $3,000 payment on behalf of each provider who previously trained to obtain the waiver necessary to prescribe buprenorphine after January 1, 2019.  Approximately $900,000 in program funding remains available for RHCs and will be paid on a first-come, first-served basis until funds are exhausted.  Send questions to

SAMHSA Removes Requirement for OUD Prescribing

Last week, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced it will no longer require nor accept applications for the DATA 2000 Waiver previously needed to prescribe the drug most frequently used for the treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD).  All practitioners with a current DEA registration that includes prescribing authority for Schedule III substances may now prescribe buprenorphine for OUD if permitted in the state where they practice.  The change comes from Section 1262 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, which removes the federal requirement for practitioners to submit a Notice of Intent to prescribe medications for the treatment of OUD.

NACRHHS Gives an Update on Emergency Medical Services and Integration of Behavioral Health and Primary Care Services

During the 90th meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health & Human Services (NACRHHS), members explored two topics of importance to rural areas. The first was access to emergency medical services in rural areas. The second was the integration of behavioral health and primary care services. This 75-minute webinar will highlight the rural context related to these topics, and discuss the policy brief and recommendations submitted to the Secretary of Health & Human Services. Update coming Tuesday, January 24 at 1:00 pm ET.

A Recent Study Finds That Diversity Efforts Need to Target Medical Debt

Black medical trainees were far more likely to carry a heavier debt burden than their peers in other racial and ethnic groups, a study published yesterday in Health Affairs found. Differences In Debt Among Postgraduate Medical Residents By Self-Designated Race And Ethnicity, 2014–19 finds that efforts to diversify the healthcare workforce — which has been tied to improved patient care and outcomes — have fallen short, even as recognition of the merits grows. Among the most intractable hurdles are the costs of medical school, including the add-on expenses. The study was led by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and researchers examined the association between race and debt among roughly 121,000 medical residents between 2014 and 2019. “Scholarships, debt relief, and financial guidance should be explored to improve diversity and inclusion in medicine across specialties,” the authors write.

The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program Now Accepting Applications

Would you like help to pay off your loans? The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program provides loan repayment to nurses in exchange for a minimum two-year full-time service commitment, at an eligible healthcare facility with a critical shortage of nurses or an eligible school of nursing. Community Health Centers automatically qualify as sites for Nurse Corps. To be eligible you must be a licensed registered nurse, advanced practice registered nurse, such as a nurse practitioner; or nurse faculty member and you received your nursing education from an accredited school of nursing located in a U.S. state or territory. You must also work full-time in either: an eligible critical shortage facility in a high-need area; or an eligible school of nursing. Applications will be accepted through Thursday, Feb. 23, at 7:30 pm. For more information review the Fact Sheet and read the Application & Program Guidance. Application assistance webinars will be held on Thursday, Jan. 26 from 2:00-3:30 pm via Zoom and Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2:00-3:30 pm via Zoom.