Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Harnessing the Power of Enabling Services to Address Services and Social Drivers of Health

As a part of a collaborative project for the Bureau of Primary Health Care’s National Training and Technical Assistance Cooperative Agreement, the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO), MHP Salud, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC), and Health Outreach Partners (HOP) will host a webinar on Health Center Enabling Services and Social Drivers of Health (SDOH), Nov. 8 at 3:00 pm. Learn about the role of enabling services staff, including Community Health Workers, in screening for and addressing SDOH and how data can be used for meaningful change. Speakers will discuss successes, challenges, best practices, and other helpful information. Register here. 

Medicaid Unwinding is Not as Smooth as Some Had Hoped

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) is struggling with tech issues, persistent staffing shortages, and flawed procedures as it redetermines thousands for Medicaid and CHIP coverage due to the Medicaid Continuous Coverage Unwinding which began April 1, 2023. The ex-parte process for renewing of applications using existing data sources has garnered a very low success rate. Just 4% of Medicaid renewals have been done through the ex parte process, higher than only Texas and Wyoming. The federal government has been pushing states to use this method, which is considered to be more efficient for administrators and easier for benefit recipients, who end up with a lower chance of churning on and off of Medicaid rolls. As of Oct. 23, KFF Medicaid Enrollment and Unwinding Tracker reported 46% of PA disenrollments were due to procedural reasons, and 54% were deemed ineligible. DHS has also published demographic and county-specific unwinding data. Read more.

It’s Here! Open Enrollment for 2024 Insurance in Pennsylvania is Now Available

Open Enrollment for Pennsylvania’s health insurance marketplace, Pennie, begins in just a few days on Nov. 1. All insurers currently offering individual marketplace coverage in Pennsylvania’s 67 counties will continue to provide plans in 2024 with a statewide average increase of 3.9%, which is lower than what insurers initially filed. For 2024 health plans, Highmark is expanding into five new counties (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties) and Geisinger will expand its individual and small group offerings into Bedford County, increasing choice for consumers. In addition, consumers in Bucks, Philadelphia, and Montgomery counties will see one more health insurer offering coverage in the individual market as Pennsylvania welcomes another new entrant, Jefferson Health Plans, to the southeastern market. Consumers enrolling by December 15 can get coverage starting January 1, 2024, although Open Enrollment does not end until January 19, 2024

Pennsylvania Governor’s Administration Reducing Barriers to Health Care Through Street Medicine, Visits Project HOME

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh visited Project HOME to discuss a recent change in Medicaid that allows certain enrolled medical providers, including FQHCs, to meet with unhoused patients covered through Medicaid and provide care outside a clinical setting– a practice known as street medicine. DHS announced the initial Medicaid expansion in July 2023 and is now furthering the reach of street medicine programs by adding more providers eligible to render street medicine services through Medicaid. By allowing more specialties and providers to bill for services rendered during visits with people experiencing homelessness, DHS aims to increase access to care for Medicaid beneficiaries and improve health outcomes. Click here to read MA Bulletin 01-23-26.

Dental Bills are on the Move in Pennsylvania

The House Education Committee recently considered HB 1478 to allow Public Health Dental Hygiene Practitioners (PHDHPs) to perform the mandated dental screenings in schools. The Pennsylvania Coalition on Oral Health (PCOH) and the Pennsylvania Dental Hygienists’ Association presented testimony to the committee. In addition, the House Health Committee considered HB 1417 to restore the comprehensive adult dental benefits to Medicaid, and HB 1585 to codify teledentistry. The three bills all passed through the committee this week, with amendments. In addition, the current fiscal code language in HB 1300 would add $24 million in state funds that managed care organizations (MCOs) must use to increase rates paid for dental services. The legislation also requires the Department of Human Services (DHS) to seek a federal match of the funds. HB 1300 is currently in consideration in the Senate.

National Advisory Committee Makes Recommendations on Federal Program for Early Childhood Care

When the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health & Human Services met in Bend, Oregon earlier this year, their focus was the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) in rural areas.  MIECHV was established in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act and is administered by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau here at HRSA, in partnership with other agencies within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).  The committee made eight rural-specific recommendations to HHS, including an effort to distinguish between rural and urban outcomes, and to ease data and administrative burdens that come with federal funding.

Updated Federal Profile for Community Health Workers

The update is part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. The handbook includes 300+ profiles covering over 500 occupations.  The new CHW profile reflects the core CHW duties, competencies, and training and employment sites. While the profile focuses on CHWs, it also mentions other professions such as peer support specialists, community health representatives, and promotores de salud for the first time.

DEA Extends Prescribing for Controlled Substances Via Telehealth

On October 10, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency joined with the Department of Health & Human Services to announce an extension telemedicine flexibilities put in place during the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Now through December 31, 2024, authorized providers (see Updates to Requirements for Buprenorphine Prescribing below) can prescribe controlled substances to new and existing patients based on a telephone evaluation, or through other means of telemedicine.

Here You Can Find A New Map that Shows Rural Emergency Hospitals

As part of their ongoing work supported by FORHP’s Policy Research Division, the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program is tracking conversions to Rural Emergency Hospitals (REHs),  a new type of healthcare provider.  Created by Congress in response to the growing number of rural hospital closures, the REH is meant to maintain emergency service and outpatient care in rural communities.  The REH provider type is a designation that comes with a new payment system under Medicare. Based on data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 14 hospitals have converted to be REHs as of October 17, 2023.  The Hospital State Division at FORHP funds a technical assistance center to provide support to hospitals considering conversion to an REH.  Subject matter experts at the center provide no-cost technical assistance for hospitals considering a conversion, helping hospital leadership teams assess the pros and cons of making the change from traditional services.