Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Pennsylvania Department of Health Seeks Oral Health Plan Advisory Group Nominations

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) is accepting nominations and applications of dynamic oral health stakeholders to represent one of the nine sectors listed in the Pennsylvania Oral Health Plan 2020-2030 to serve on the Pennsylvania Oral Health Plan Advisory Group (OHPAG).

To nominate a candidate, or yourself, for the OHPAG, please download the application, complete, and send it along with a resume and/or CV to

The application deadline is June 5th, 2023. Selected members will be notified via email in July 2023. If you or your organization would like to endorse someone, please send an email to include with the person’s nomination. Additional information can be found at the links below.

Click here to download the nomination form.
Click here to download the group guidelines.

New CMS Report Released: Disparities in Health Care in Medicare Advantage Associated with Dual Eligibility or Eligibility for a Low-Income Subsidy and Disability

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH) released a report detailing the quality of care received by people enrolled in Medicare Advantage (MA).

The Disparities in Health Care in Medicare Advantage Associated with Dual Eligibility or Eligibility for a Low-Income Subsidy and Disability report presents summary information on the performance of Medicare Advantage plans on specific measures of quality of health care reported in 2021, which corresponds to care received in 2020. Specifically, this report compares the quality of care for four groups of Medicare Advantage enrollees that are defined based on the combination of two characteristics: (1) dual eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid or eligibility for a Part D Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) and (2) disability.

Overall, the report showed that people who were dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid or eligible for the Low-Income Subsidy received worse clinical care than those who were not. The largest differences between the two groups were in the areas of Follow-up After Hospital Stay for Mental Illness (within 30 days of discharge), Avoiding Potentially Harmful Drug-Disease Interactions in Elderly Patients with Dementia, and Avoiding Potentially Harmful Drug-Disease Interactions in Elderly Patients with a History of Falls. Disparities by dual eligibility status/Low-Income Subsidy eligibility status were least common among Hispanic individuals and most common among White individuals. The report also shows more pronounced disparities in clinical care for dually eligible/Low-Income Subsidy eligible individuals in urban areas as compared to rural areas.

This report is based on an analysis of data from the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS). HEDIS collects information from medical records and administrative data on the technical quality of care that Medicare Advantage enrollees receive for a variety of medical issues, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and chronic lung disease.

Health care professionals, organizations, researchers, and hospital leaders can utilize this report along with other CMS tools and resources to help raise awareness of health disparities, develop health care interventions for Medicare Advantage enrollees who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid/Low- Income Subsidy eligible and those with disabilities, and implement quality improvement efforts that improve health equity.

Help CMS to advance equity by sharing this report and our resources on prevention and health equity initiatives. Also, sign up for our listserv or visit for more information.

Small, Rural Communities Have Become Abortion Access Battlegrounds

In April, Mark Lee Dickson arrived in this 4,500-person city that hugs the Utah-Nevada border to pitch an ordinance banning abortion.

Dickson is the director of the anti-abortion group Right to Life of East Texas and founder of another organization that has spent the past few years traveling the United States trying to persuade local governments to pass abortion bans.

“Sixty-five cities and two counties across the United States” have passed similar restrictions, he told members of the West Wendover City Council during a mid-April meeting. The majority are in Texas, but recent successes in other states have buoyed Dickson and his group. “We’re doing this in Virginia and Illinois and Montana and other places as well,” he said.

The quest to enact local bans has become particularly acute in small towns, like West Wendover and Hobbs, New Mexico, which are situated by borders between states that have restricted abortion and states where laws preserve access. They are crossroads where abortion advocates and providers have looked to establish clinics to serve people traveling from the large swaths of the U.S. where states have banned or severely restricted abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned nearly 50-year-old nationwide abortion protections established by the court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.

Read more.

NIH-funded Study Highlights the Financial Toll of Health Disparities in the United States

Ground-breaking study provides national and state-level estimates of the economic burden of health disparities by race and ethnicity and educational levels.

New research shows that the economic burden of health disparities in the United States remains unacceptably high. The study, funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), part of the National Institutes of Health,  revealed that in 2018, racial and ethnic health disparities cost the U.S. economy $451 billion, a 41% increase from the previous estimate of $320 billion in 2014. The study also finds that the total burden of education-related health disparities for persons with less than a college degree in 2018 reached $978 billion, about two times greater than the annual growth rate of the U.S. economy in 2018.

The findings from this study by researchers from NIMHD; Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans; Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore; Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, Maryland; TALV Corp, Owings Mills, Maryland; and the National Urban League were published in JAMA.

This study is the first to estimate the total economic burden of health disparities for five racial and ethnic minority groups nationally and for all 50 states and the District of Columbia using a health equity approach. The health equity approach set aspirational health goals that all populations can strive for derived from the Healthy People 2030 goals. It establishes a single standard that can be applied to the nation and each state, and for all racial, ethnic, and education groups. It is also the first study to estimate the economic burden of health disparities by educational levels as a marker of socioeconomic status.

“The exorbitant cost of health disparities is diminishing U.S. economic potential. We have a clear call to action to address social and structural factors that negatively impact not only population health, but also economic growth,” said NIMHD Director Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D.

Read more.

Transition Forward: Updated Medicaid Unwinding Resources Now Available

On May 11, 2023, the federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) for COVID-19 expired. Some Medicaid services, such as telehealth flexibilities, will not be affected and have been extended through December 31, 2024, as indicated in The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023.

There are certain Medicare and Medicaid waivers, broad flexibilities for health care providers, and coverage for COVID-19 testing that will be affected.

To better assist with the impact PHE unwinding will have on different areas of people’s health, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH) updated its Coverage to Care (C2C) resources to help the consumers you serve understand their health coverage.

Updated C2C Resources Available

Ahead of PHE Unwinding, these resources will help consumers prepare to transition forward and continue to feel confident in how they will receive coverage for COVID-19 testing and telehealth services.

The following resources are now available on the C2C website:

  • C2C COVID Overview Factsheet Explains basics of health coverage for protecting you and your family, Medicare updates, Medicaid renewal (new!), and more.
  • C2C Telehealth Patient Toolkit Serves as a guide to explain telehealth basics and help patients and their families properly navigate telehealth services.
  • C2C Telehealth Provider Toolkit Provides informational tips to assist providers with implementing telehealth services to their patients.

Spread the Word: Renewing Medicaid/CHIP Coverage

Additionally, to ensure Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries are up to date on the Medicaid continuous enrollment condition that expired on March 31st, CMS has created many resources, including the Anticipated 2023 State Timelines for Initiating Unwinding-Related Renewals as of February 24, 2023 (PDF, 93 KB, 2 pp).

For the most updated information about Medicaid and CHIP renewal processes, we encourage all enrollment assisters and outreach workers to communicate with Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries the following three important messages:

  • Update your contact information – Make sure the state Medicaid agency or CHIP program has your current mailing address, phone number, email address, or other contact information so they can contact you about your Medicaid or CHIP renewal
  • Check your mail – State Medicaid agencies or CHIP programs will mail you a letter about your Medicaid or CHIP coverage
  • Complete your renewal form (if you get one) – Fill out the form and return it to the state Medicaid agency or CHIP program right away to help avoid a gap in your Medicaid or CHIP coverage

Make sure to review the updated communications toolkit, Medicaid and CHIP Continuous Enrollment Unwinding (PDF, 3.2 MB, 21 pp) and the Medicaid Unwinding Toolkit Supporting Materials (ZIP, 47 MB) to help inform people with Medicaid or CHIP about steps they should take to renew their coverage or find other health care options. *People who no longer qualify for Medicaid or CHIP are advised to visit to find out if they are eligible to enroll in a Marketplace plan.

Preparing for Medicaid Unwinding is important for all. To learn more about the Unwinding and Medicaid and CHIP Renewals, visit CMS OMH at

New Brief Highlights Population Changes in Pennsylvania Municipalities

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released the Vintage 2022 population estimates for metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas and local governmental units, including incorporated places, minor civil divisions, and consolidated cities. They also released housing unit estimates for the nation, states and counties. Learn more and access the data here.

We’ve created a brief focused on the population change in Pennsylvania municipalities that visualizes changes between 2020 and 2022.

Read more on our Research Briefs page or click here to go straight to the brief.

Updates on HRSA’s OPTN Modernization Initiative

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is pleased to share updates regarding the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) Modernization Initiative, which seeks to better serve the needs of patients and families.

HRSA’s planned approach and timelines for the first year of the multi-year modernization process focuses on design, implementation, and oversight.

The following phases are planned for 2023 – 2024:

  • Phase 1: OPTN Modernization Design and Strategy Development. In summer 2023, HRSA will conduct market research to inform development of future contract solicitations and host an Industry Day event for interested parties and vendors.
  • Phase 2A: OPTN Transition Management and Competitive OPTN Transition Contracts. In fall 2023, HRSA will focus on maintaining uninterrupted access to the critical systems and functionality that support organ matching and transplantation during the modernization process. HRSA will also release a solicitation to support and enhance OPTN operations while the modernization process is underway.
  • Phase 2B: OPTN Modernization Implementation and OPTN Next Generation Contacts. In spring 2024, HRSA intends to release a solicitation to support the next generation of the OPTN, which will include enhancements in technology, governance, data transparency, and operations. The OPTN Next Generation contracts will provide a comprehensive approach to modernizing the OPTN’s foundational IT systems.

HRSA is committed to transparency in the OPTN Modernization process and will continue to provide updates on our approach toward achieving enhanced accountability, equity, and performance in the organ transplantation system.

For more details, visit

CDC Rural-Urban Publication Alert: Adult Asthma Prevalence and Trend Analysis by Urban–Rural Status Across Sociodemographic Characteristics—United States, 2012-2020

Although data on the prevalence of current asthma among adults and children are available at national, regional, and state levels, such data are limited at the substate level (eg, urban–rural classification and county).

We examined the prevalence of current asthma in adults and children across 6 levels of urban–rural classification in each state. We estimated current asthma prevalence among adults for urban–rural categories in the 50 states and the District of Columbia and among children for urban–rural categories in 27 states by analyzing 2016-2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey data. We used the 2013 National Center for Health Statistics 6-level urban–rural classification scheme to define urban–rural status of counties.

During 2016-2018, the current asthma prevalence among US adults in medium metropolitan (9.5%), small metropolitan (9.5%), micropolitan (10.0%), and noncore (9.6%) areas was higher than the asthma prevalence in large central metropolitan (8.6%) and large fringe metropolitan (8.7%) areas. Current asthma prevalence in adults differed significantly among the 6 levels of urban–rural categories in 19 states. In addition, the prevalence of current asthma in adults was significantly higher in the Northeast (9.9%) than in the South (8.7%) and the West (8.8%). The current asthma prevalence in children differed significantly by urban–rural categories in 7 of 27 states. For these 7 states, the prevalence of asthma in children was higher in large central metropolitan areas than in micropolitan or noncore areas, except for Oregon, in which the prevalence in the large central metropolitan area was the lowest.

Knowledge about county-level current asthma prevalence in adults and children may aid state and local policy makers and public health officers in establishing effective asthma control programs and targeted resource allocation.

Citation: Qin, Xiaoting, Cynthia A. Pate, and Hatice S. Zahran. “Adult asthma prevalence and trend analysis by urban–rural status across sociodemographic characteristics—United States, 2012-20.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: Global 2, no. 2 (2023): 100085.

USDA to Host Series of Webinars on Two New Inflation Reduction Act Programs to Advance Clean Energy Initiatives in Rural America

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary of Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small announced that USDA will host a series of webinars on two new Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) programs. The Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) and Empowering Rural America (New ERA) programs are brand new initiatives that will expand clean, affordable, and reliable energy in rural communities (including U.S. territories and Compact of Freely Associated States).

USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) is launching these two programs under the IRA by making nearly $11 billion in budget authority available in loans, grants, loan modifications, and partially forgivable loans. This will help electrify rural America with clean, affordable, reliable energy and enhance the quality of life in rural communities.

USDA staff will hold the webinars via Zoom at the following dates and times:

RUS update on IRA funding:

Overview of funding available through IRA: May 22, 24, 31 and June 1, 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. ET

Additional webinars will be scheduled and announced soon.

The Biden-Harris Administration championed the Inflation Reduction Act to help provide new funding and unprecedented incentives to expand clean energy, transform rural power production, create jobs, and spur new opportunities for the people of rural America. It is the largest single investment in rural electrification since the Rural Electrification Act of 1936.

For more information, visit the Inflation Reduction Act website.

To learn more, read the full Stakeholder Announcement.