Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Affordable Broadband Program Sputters to a Halt, Ending Free Internet for 3.2 Million Rural Households

On June 3, 2024, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will is pay out the dregs of a fund that Congress established in 2021 to help lower-income families connect to the internet.

The Affordable Connectivity Program, part of the landmark 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, is out of money as of May 31, 2024.

This month, the FCC sent final payments to some 23 million households that participated in the program. About 14% of participants (3.2 million households) were rural, according to a Daily Yonder analysis of FCC data.

The White House laid blame for closure of the program at the feet of Republican lawmakers who have not advanced pending legislation to continue funding.

“Republicans have failed to act,” said Stephen Benjamin, a senior adviser to the president, in an online White House press conference. “Millions of Americans will see prices increase for the necessary connectivity to do their homework, access telehealth, hold a remote job, or run a small business from their home.”

Benjamin called ACP “the largest and most successful internet affordability program in our nation’s history.”

ACP provided $30 to eligible families to pay for low-cost broadband connections. Participants on tribal lands were eligible for $75 a month. As part of the effort, the White House persuaded internet service providers to offer ACP participants a lower monthly subscription rate, resulting in no net cost to users.

The White House announced Friday that 14 internet service providers have agreed to continue offering the low-cost subscriptions to ACP participants for the rest of 2024, despite the end of federal funding for the program. But more than half of ACP participants get their broadband from an internet service provider that has not agreed to offer the lower rate. (See below for a list.)

“In the absence of funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program, President (Joe) Biden remains committed to doing everything possible to ensure families continue to access affordable high-speed internet,” Benjamin said.

ISPs That Will Continue Low-Cost Program

According to a White House fact sheet, the following companies (which range from national telecommunications giants to small, local companies) have agreed to continuing offering the $30 internet subscription with no data cap or fees through the rest of 2024:

  • Allo Fiber
  • altafiber (and Hawaiian Telcom)
  • Astound Broadband
  • AT&T
  • Comcast
  • Cox
  • IdeaTek
  • Mediacom
  • MLGC
  • Optimum
  • Spectrum (Charter Communications)*
  • Starry
  • Verizon
  • Vermont Telephone Company

*Offer available to new subscribers and eligible existing customers.

Read more.

CMS Announces 2024 CMS Health Equity Award Recipients

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is proud to announce the recipients of the 2024 CMS Health Equity Award. The CMS Health Equity Award is awarded to organizations working towards advancing health equity by reducing disparities in health care access, quality, and outcomes.

The CMS Health Equity Awardees at the CMS Health Equity Conference on May 30, 2024.

The 2024 CMS Health Equity Award Recipients are:

Latino Connection, Harrisburg, PA, Community-Accessible Testing & Education (CATE) Initiative (provided by Latino Connection)

In 2014, George Fernandez founded a community-based organization, Latino Connection, in the heart of Pennsylvania to create and activate programming in low-income communities to address every aspect of the social determinants of health. Their Community-Accessible Testing & Education (CATE) initiative was launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic with the aim of addressing disparities in access to essential resources and education among underserved communities. With Latino Connection being the first Latino and LGBTQ+ organization to launch such a program, CATE represents a groundbreaking effort to provide critical support to populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic, including minorities, low-income individuals, LGBTQ+ communities, and those residing in urban areas.

CATE has successfully reached thousands of Pennsylvanians with lifesaving resources and education. Between 2020 and 2022, nearly 9,000 COVID-19 tests and over 17,000 vaccinations were administered across the state, particularly in vulnerable and underserved communities who may not have had access otherwise. CATE also provided 500 flu shots and 10,000 PPE kits, resources, and education in both English and Spanish to the more than 37,000 people that attended all their community events combined. Latino Connection’s CATE initiative exemplifies the transformative power of community-driven interventions in addressing health disparities.

By prioritizing inclusivity, accessibility, and collaboration, CATE has not only provided critical support during the COVID-19 pandemic but has also laid the groundwork for long-term improvements in health equity across Pennsylvania.

Augusta Health, Shenandoah Valley, VA, Primary Care Mobile Clinic Program (provided by Augusta Health)

Celebrating its 30th Anniversary, Augusta Health is a 255-bed, non-profit, independent hospital serving communities of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, in a semi-rural setting. Embracing their vision to be “a national model for community-based healthcare”, Augusta Health reaches out to neighborhoods with rural geographic barriers and local cities with high poverty rates and adverse social and health barriers. One of the ways they respond to acute deficits in access to health care in the community is through the implementation and growth of their Primary Care Mobile Clinic program (Today known as the Augusta Health Neighborhood Clinics).

Since its official launch in September 2022, the Primary Care Mobile Clinic program has expanded to operate at 14 unique sites each month. Sites have included community centers, churches, a fire house, the mayor’s office, and homeless shelters. Neighborhood selection is based on identifying communities in the most need through analysis using the University of Wisconsin’s Area Deprivation Index (ADI) score and mapping techniques.  Building upon the analytics, the key component for their success is having community partners with local expertise in key social services like housing and food insecurity.

Within the first full year of the program, the Primary Mobile Clinic has provided more than 1,700 primary care visits for 825 patients at 17 different community sites. Services vary by location and are based on community need.

To learn more about the CMS Health Equity Award and to sign up for updates on other grants and awards, please visit

USDA Announces Summer Nutrition Programs

On May 21, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a new suite of summer nutrition programs to help tackle hunger and improve healthy eating for millions of children. Through the suite of SUN Programs (Summer Nutrition Programs), families now have more choices and convenient ways to get summer nutrition support for their children and teens with new SUN Bucks, SUN Meals, and previously launched SUN Meals To-Go. These programs offer free summer meals for kids 18 and under and new grocery benefits for eligible school-aged kids.

Visit USDA’s SUN Programs website——to find out more and see what’s available in your community. Program information is also available in Spanish. The USDA have also developed digitalbrand and print materials – available in English, Spanish, and additional languages – that can be used to promote SUN programs.


Medicaid/CHIP Special Enrollment Period Extended to November 30, 2024

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has extended the temporary SEP to help people who are no longer eligible for Medicaid or CHIP transition to Marketplace coverage in states using

The end date of this “Unwinding SEP” has been extended from July 31, 2024, to November 30, 2024, which will help more people leaving Medicaid or CHIP secure affordable, comprehensive coverage through the start of the next Open Enrollment Period. This extension is crucial to ensuring people remain covered, including in states that have given children or other groups additional time to renew their coverage, as CMS has recommended, to help eligible people stay enrolled.

Click here for more information on the extension of the Unwinding SEP. This document is an addendum to the original FAQ, which is available for reference here.

Pennsylvania Broadband BEAD Challenge Rebuttal Phase In Process

Important Reminder:

The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (PBDA) BEAD Rebuttal Window is currently open, and it closes on June 22nd, 2024 at 11:59PM. If you are an eligible participant for the challenge process and have not registered, you will need to complete a registration before you can submit a rebuttal.

The timeline for the BEAD Challenge process is as follows:

  1. Rebuttal of Challenges: Entities that have been challenged will have 30 days to respond (May 24–June 22)
  2. Final Determinations: The PBDA will decided if challenges and rebuttals are valid or not within 30 days (June 23– July 22)

Additional Information:

Please visit the BEAD Challenge webpage for additional details, including:

  • How to register for the challenge portal
  • Review of the public map that identifies those areas deemed unserved, underserved, served, as well as Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs).
  • Informational BEAD Challenge webinar that was held on March 29, 2024 and download the PowerPoint presentation used during the webinar.

If you have any questions please email the PBDA at

CDC Office of Rural Health Call for Papers

Preventing Chronic Disease (PCD) welcomes submissions for its upcoming collection, Rural Health Disparities: Contemporary Solutions for Persistent Rural Public Health Challenges.

Public health challenges have been documented in rural geographical areas and remain persistent public health, medicine, and health services problems. These challenges include limited health care access, excessive tobacco use in poor counties, limited physical activities, socioeconomic inequities, behavioral and mental health conditions, and major chronic diseases. These persistent rural health challenges magnify and lead to racial and socioeconomic disparities.

The goal of this collection is to capture current solutions to these challenges. Peer-reviewed articles in this collection will help advance the discourse on rural public health beyond biomedical models for chronic disease prevention. For this collection, PCD encourages the submission of manuscripts covering diverse topics using various article types. We encourage authors to explore the social determinants of health, environmental influences, policy interventions, and community-based initiatives contributing to chronic disease prevention in rural areas.

PCD is a peer-reviewed public health journal published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and authored by experts worldwide. Visit the PCD website for more information about the journal, submission guidelines, and deadlines for this upcoming collection.

Key Dates: Accepted manuscripts will be published on a rolling basis. Please submit an inquiry to the Editor in Chief at by July 19, 2024. All manuscripts intended for this collection are due by January 24, 2025. The collection will include published manuscripts along with a guest editorial, set to be published in Summer 2025.

New Economic Analysis for Dentistry Released

A new analysis from the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute shows the economic impact of dentistry in all 50 states. In Pennsylvania, the annual economic impact generated by dental offices is $16.4 billion and the average annual economic impact per dentist is $2.3 million. The full data available in Excel format includes impact measures such as direct and indirect spending, economic impact per dentist and the number of jobs within dental practices as well as jobs supported by dental offices.

Click here for the Pennsylvania infographic.
Click here for the full analysis.

New World Economic Forum White Paper Released

The World Economic Forum released a white paper, “The Economic Rationale for a Global Commitment to Invest in Oral Health.” This paper was created in collaboration with the American Dental Association, Colgate-Palmolive Company, and Henry Schein. This white paper is the first in a planned series that explores the role of various sectors in improving oral health. The intention of the authors is to inspire international health leaders, policy-makers, and private sector partners to reconnect the mouth to the body in pursuit of a healthier future for all.

Click here to read the white paper.

Hospitals Forced to Revamp Business Models or Risk Losing Patients

From Axios

Hospitals’ business models are being upended by fundamental changes within the health care system, including one that presents a pretty existential challenge: People have far more options to get their care elsewhere these days.

Why it matters: Health systems’ responses to major demographic, social and technological change have been controversial among policymakers and economists concerned about the impact on costs and competition.

  • Communities depend on having at least some emergency services available, making the survival of hospitals’ core services crucial.
  • But without adaptation — which is already underway in some cases — hospitals may be facing deep red balance sheets in the not-too-distant future, leading to facility closures and shuttered services.

The big picture: Many hospitals have recovered from the sector’s post-pandemic financial slump, which was driven primarily by staffing costs and inflation. But systemic, long-term trends will continue to challenge their traditional business model.

  • Many of the services that are shifting toward outpatient settings — like oncology, diagnostics and orthopedic care — are the ones that typically make hospitals the most money and effectively subsidize less profitable departments.
  • When hospitals lose these higher-margin services, “you’re starving the system that needs profits to provide services that we all might need, but particularly uninsured or underinsured people might need,” said UCLA professor Jill Horwitz.

And hospitals have long claimed that much higher commercial insurance rates make up for what they say are inadequate government rates.

  • But as the population ages and moves out of employer-sponsored health plans, fewer people will have commercial insurance, forcing hospitals to either cut costs or find new sources of revenue.

By the numbers: Consulting firms are projecting a bleak decade for health systems.

  • Oliver Wyman recently predicted that under the status quo, hospitals will need to reduce their expenses by 15-20% by 2030 “to stay viable.”
  • Boston Consulting Group last year projected that health systems’ annual financial shortfall will total more than $200 billion by 2027, and their operating margins will have dropped by 10 percentage points.
  • To break even in 2027, a “typical” health system would need payment rate increases of between 5-8% annually — twice the rate growth over the last decade, according to BCG. If the load is borne solely by private insurers, hospitals will need a 10-16% year-over-year increase.

Between the lines: This is the lens through which to view health systems’ spree of mergers and acquisitions, which have increasingly drawn criticism from policymakers, regulators and economists as being anticompetitive.

  • For better or worse, when hospitals have a larger market share, they are in a better position to negotiate and bring in more patients, and they can dilute some of the financial pain of poorer-performing facilities.
  • And when they acquire physician practices or other outpatient clinics, they’re still getting paid for delivering care even when patients aren’t receiving it in a traditional hospital setting.
  • “I think the hospitals have sort of said … ‘We can keep doing things the same way and we can just merge and get higher markups,'” said Yale economist Zack Cooper. “That push to consolidate is saying, ‘Let’s not move forward, let’s dig in.'”

Yes, but: A big bonus of outpatient care is that it’s supposed to be cheaper. But when hospitals charge more for care than an independent physician’s office would have, or they tack on facility fees, costs don’t go down.

New PRISM Resource! Preparing Behavioral Health Clinicians for Success and Retention in Rural Safety Net Practices

This study assesses how, among behavioral health clinicians working in rural safety net practices, the amount of exposure to care in rural underserved communities received during training relates to confidence in skills important in their work settings, successes in jobs and communities, and anticipated retention.  The summary provides a quick overview of the study published in the Journal of Rural Health.

View the Study Summary here.


PRISM is a collaborative of State Primary Care Offices, Offices of Rural Health, Area Health Education Centers and other organizations that have partnered to collect data to identify and document outcomes to enhance the retention of clinicians.  Through its design, this collaborative approach builds shared interest, cooperation and group wisdom in best practices to promote retention among the states.

PRISM provides a standardized and state-of-the-art way for states to gather real-time data from clinicians as they serve in States’ and the National Health Service Corps’ (NHSC) loan repayment, scholarship and other incentive programs.  This retention data gathering system routinely surveys clinicians as they serve in these public programs to provide quality, consistent, real-time, convenient and ongoing data to inform the management and retention of clinicians in service programs.

PRISM is a complex, longitudinal data gathering system that incorporates the data collection, analysis and dissemination expertise of the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research.  State offices can easily enter, track and manage retention questionnaires.

PRISM training and technical assistance is provided by 3RNET, supported through a contract with the National Rural Health Association with funds from the US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). State collaborative members pay an annual fee to support enhancements to PRISM.

For more information contact Jackie Fannell