Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Medicaid’s Important Role in Small Towns and Rural Areas

 Policy experts at the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families detail the critical role of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in rural areas, where people are more likely to face challenges getting coverage. Medicaid and CHIP are public sources of insurance. Medicaid provides health care coverage for eligible low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities, while CHIP provides low-cost health coverage to children for families that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid.  Using data from the U.S. Census, Georgetown’s researchers found that Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program served a greater share of rural adults and children compared to urban areas in all states and nationwide. This is especially true of states in the South and Southwest: the highest share of adults in small towns and rural areas who are enrolled in Medicaid live in Kentucky, Louisiana, and New Mexico, covering about one-third of rural adults.  Georgetown’s issue brief also provides county-level Medicaid enrollment rates, showing the large range within and across the states.

A Request for Information From the International Classification of Disease: Upcoming ICD-11 

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is the global standard for health data, clinical documentation, and statistical aggregation. It provides a common language for recording, reporting, and monitoring diseases. It facilitates the collection and storage of data for analysis and comparison of mortality and morbidity data. ICD-11 is the 11th revision, a result of an unprecedented collaboration with clinicians, statisticians, classification, and IT experts from around the world. For the first time, ICD will be fully electronic, include more diagnostic codes, and can be used online or offline – a vast improvement on previous revisions.  For this Request for Information (RFI), the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics (NCVHS), needs feedback from a wide variety of users – including those with expertise in how rural health may be impacted.  To submit comments in response to the RFI, please send by close of business January 12, 2024, to, and include on the subject line: Response from [your organization or name] regarding ICD–11 RFI. Comments are due by January 12, 2023.

National School-Based Health Alliance Learning Collaborative 

The School-Based Health Alliance is announcing a new learning collaborative focused on school-based health center (SBHC) start-up. This initiative aims to support partnerships between healthcare organizations and schools to provide or expand access to primary care and behavioral health services in schools. Throughout the learning collaborative, participating teams will: learn about the core competencies for SBHCs and practices to support SBHC sustainability, identify areas of strength and areas for growth, and identify action steps for strengthening partnerships, improving sustainability, and maintaining high-quality care. The learning collaborative will meet on select Tuesdays between Jan. and March 2024. Continuing education credits will be offered. For more information, see the program description. To apply, please complete the application form online. Applications are due Nov. 16, 2023. For any questions, contact Emily Baldi and Shameka Davis.

A Rural Virtual Job Fair Coming This November

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will host a Virtual Job Fair for rural health centers and clinics on November 16, 2023, from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. Sign up here to receive notifications from the HRSA Virtual Job Fairs Team. Registering for this event does not guarantee a spot in the event. Selection is based on several criteria including: rural site designation; number of vacancies (note vacancies cannot expire prior to the event); HPSA score; and region across the country.

HHS and Pfizer Reach Agreement to Increase Access to Paxlovid

On Oct. 13, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that HHS and Pfizer have reached an agreement that extends patient access to Paxlovid, maximizes taxpayer investment, and begins Paxlovid’s transition to the commercial market in November 2023. The agreement builds on HHS and Pfizer’s strong partnership over the last three years that enabled the development, manufacture, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics at a record pace.

‘Waiting with Bated Breath’: Health Clinics Are Anxious for COVID Vaccines Weeks after Rollout

NBC News recently covered the growing frustration of the delays in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. Weeks after the approval of updated vaccines, community health centers across the country say they are still waiting on their doses to arrive. The delays are preventing many vulnerable adults and children from getting vaccinated ahead of a potential winter wave. NBC interviewed Eric Kiehl, PACHC Director of Policy and Partnership, for the article. Pennsylvania’s health centers, which serve an estimated 1 million people a year, to date received just 900 COVID-19 vaccines, according to Kiehl. While the state health department has prioritized getting vaccines to health centers with a larger uninsured population, health centers that serve fewer uninsured patients “are probably still on the waitlist to get some vaccine,” Kiehl said.

Study Finds Primary Care Is the Key to Saving Lives

When it comes to saving American lives, don’t look to cardiologists, oncologists, or even the made-for-TV heroes in the ER. It’s primary care providers who offer the best hope of reversing the devastating decline in U.S. life expectancy. That’s the conclusion reached by experts who study America’s fractured healthcare system. Read, “Primary care saves lives. Here’s why it’s failing Americans.”

A Recap of Important Information Shared by Pennsylvania Human Services Department

Key representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) joined Pennsylvania’s community of Community Health Centers during last week’s 2023 PACHC Annual Conference and Clinical Summit. Here are some of the key takeaways from the session:

    • This is a key priority of DHS Secretary Arkoosh and the Shapiro Administration. Some of the ways the administration is supporting improvements in outcomes include: Maternal Medicaid coverage extends to 12 months postpartum; HealthChoices managed care organizations (MCOs) will reimburse for home visits for the first 18 months of a baby’s life; DHS is requiring MCOs to have value-based care maternity teams and is providing incentives for closing equity gaps in prenatal and postpartum care; and DHS is working with the Pennsylvania Doula Commission toward statewide certification and doula enrollment in Medical Assistance; DHS is working to find solutions for the commonwealth’s “maternal deserts.” DHS noted that they are unable to enroll doulas as a Medicaid provider until there are enough certified doulas to ensure statewide network adequacy.
    • The 2024 HealthChoices MCO agreements will include a requirement that MCOs pay retroactive to the date of submission of a complete credentialing application.* DHS is also working with the MCOs on options to streamline credentialing processes while maintaining compliance with NCQA standards. *NOTE: Although the DHS Office of Medical Assistance Programs (OMAP) has shared this policy change with the DHS Office of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS), OMAP does not know at this time whether OMHSAS will align their policy for behavioral health MCOs with OMAP policy for physical HealthChoices MCOs.
    • DHS has been working with the Budget Office to discuss funding needed to implement one of the two previously submitted PACHC recommendations. Those recommendations included the elimination of dental hygienist productivity in the calculation of PPS rates OR the elimination of separate productivity thresholds for hygienists and dentists in favor of a combined productivity standard. Both recommendations have a significant financial impact that are not currently included in the approved 2023-2024 state budget. PACHC will share more information when DHS announces a decision.
    • It is in the best interest of all health centers to submit quarterly MCO wraparound reports whether or not there is a balance due. The reports help DHS confirm whether MCO are paying correctly, give health centers the opportunity for an advance on MCO reimbursement due to maintaining cash flow until MCO payment is made, and help DHS monitor MCO payment trends. Assessing MCO trends is important for both payments and denials, which you are encouraged to include on your wrap reports. Health centers that prefer not to receive the advance from DHS can simply check a box indicating so when submitting the report. It is possible to bill four T1015 codes per patient per day, but you can only bill and be paid one of each of the following types: medical, dental, BH, and vision per day. Denials should be reported, but only for informational purposes and not as part of the wrap calculation. The wrap reports have moved from Excel templates to an online portal. If you need access to the portal, please contact IMPORTANT: Only claims submitted to MCOs with a T1015 code should be included on MCO wraparound reports.
    • The two most frequent issues discovered on audit by DHS’ Bureau of Financial Integrity (BFI) are: 1) including MCO-denied encounters in the encounter count on wraparound reports; and 2) submitting claims not submitted to the payor to DHS for payment.
    • It is important to note that FQHC licensed professional counselors (LPCs) and licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs) may ONLY bill for behavioral health (BH) encounters and then only when BH is in scope for the health center.
    • Since 2020, DHS has permitted billing at PPS for group therapy. See the bulletin for more information.
    • The MCO HealthChoices agreements require the MCOs to discuss conceptual VBP models with any interested FQHCs but do not require FQHCs to enter into these alternative payment methodology discussions. The 2024 HealthChoices agreement will require model implementation if an FQHC so chooses and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approves. For any VBP model, the PPS rate should remain on the payment floor unless a different agreement is reached between the MCO and the FQHC and approved by CMS.
  • 340B.
    • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is working on a process to identify 340B claims under Medicare Part D. In response, DHS has decided to pause its work on this issue for Medicaid managed care until CMS releases its recommendations in the hope that the CMS strategy will align with state strategy.
    • DHS has released a second MA Bulletin adding street medicine as a place of service for certain providers. FQHCs were inadvertently missed from the initial bulletin issued July 2023 but are and have been eligible to offer services outside of the health center to unhomed individuals.
    • DHS is federally required to cover COVID-19 vaccination through Sept. 2024. A vaccine-only visit is reimbursable at $40 per MA Bulletin 01-23-08. DHS is to get back to PACHC on whether the cost of the vaccine is reimbursable above and apart from PPS since the cost of the vaccine ($130-150/dose) is not included in FQHC PPS rate calculations and health centers are struggling with this increased cost of care.
    • DHS has a new goal of publishing the updated FQHC/RHC Provider Handbook (Appendix E) by the end of 2023.
    • It has taken longer than DHS anticipated to submit for and get approval from CMS to pay for LARCs outside of the PPS rate. DHS hopes for approval of the state plan amendment (SPA) by early 2024.
    • Beginning Jan. 1, 2024, DHS will permit the enrollment of pharmacists in Medical Assistance. PACHC is seeking confirmation that this means they will then be added to the list of providers eligible to generate an FQHC encounter.
    • DHS also intends to add dieticians to the list of providers eligible to enroll in Medical Assistance. More information will be shared when it is available.

340B Manufacturer Restriction Contract Pharmacies Chart Updated

Bristol Myers Squibb has extended 340B contract pharmacy restrictions to all grantees, which affects health centers. They will recognize up to three contract pharmacies (one for Non-IMids, a second for IMiDs, and a third for Camzyos) for each covered entity. Furthermore, Merck, Teva, and Astellas have lifted 340B drug restrictions for all covered entities in Arkansas and Louisiana. Please note that these restrictions still apply to covered entities in other states. NACHC will continue to update their manufacturer restrictions chart as needed.