Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Federal Court Blocks Public Charge Rule

On October 11, 2019, two District Courts issued nationwide preliminary injunctions to stop the Trump Administration’s public charge rule, which would have taken effect Oct. 15, 2019.  This proposal was opposed by NACHC, PACHC and many other organizations that expressed concern about the proposal’s impact on immigrant families and refugees. An article further explaining the ruling can be found here. A Kaiser Family Foundation study showed Community Health Centers   reported that immigrant patients have declined to enroll in or renew Medicaid coverage out of fear of becoming a public charge, even those patients who are not covered by this rule.

Pennsylvania Department of State Unveils New Licensure Processing Guide

The Pennsylvania Department of State this announced a brand new public facing Licensure Processing Guide. The guide breaks down the licensing process into three phases and provides the average length of time each phase will take as of the previous quarter. It also offers recommendations for how to shorten processing times. Additionally, new to the department’s website are two short videos, “How to Apply for a Professional License” and “What Happens to My Application.” The first boards featured in the Licensure Processing Guide are the Cosmetology, Nursing and Osteopathic Medicine Boards. More licensing boards will be built and additional licenses will be added to existing boards on a rolling basis, with the Medical, Real Estate and Engineering Boards in process now.

DEA Will Take Unwanted Vaping Devices

The Drug Enforcement Administration has announced that it will collect unwanted vaping devices during its National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, which is scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow at collections sites throughout the United States. The announcement comes as updated CDC data shows the number of cases of a lung illness officials believe is linked to e-cigarette use and vaping has reached 1,604. (Sources: NPR’s “Shots,” 10/25; CNN, 10/24)

Challenges to Mapping Broadband Availability

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) serves all congressional committees and Members of Congress by analyzing all aspects of current policies and the impact of proposed policy alternatives.  In this report, the CRS identifies the federal agencies involved in mapping broadband access across the United States, and factors contributing to the urban/rural digital divide.  The Federal Communications Commission currently has a map that shows residential internet service connections per 1,000 households and the CRS report seeks to make it easier to understand how rural areas are impacted.  The report can be accessed here.

A Guide to Telehealth Laws and Policy in 50 States

This annual report from the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) is the most current guide of Medicaid provider manuals, state laws, and regulations for telehealth in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Key findings this year include reimbursement for some form of live video in all states and DC, and 22 states with reimbursement for remote patient monitoring.  The report includes an interactive map of policies as well as an at-a-glance infographic.  Click here to access the guide.

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Secretary Visits Centers of Excellence Regional Learning Network to Highlight Treatment Milestone

Harrisburg, PA – On October 18, 2019, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller joined the Center of Excellence (COE) Regional Learning Network to meet with COEs in Central Pennsylvania and hear directly from their employees about the successes and challenges of fighting the opioid epidemic. Since 2017, Pennsylvania’s 45 COEs have expanded access to and improved engagement in treatment to more than 20,500 Medicaid recipients around Pennsylvania.

“It goes without saying that our goal is to save lives and help people get the treatment they need to live healthy lives,” said Secretary Miller. “We want to be sure we are doing everything we can to fight the opioid epidemic and give people the resources they need to be successful in recovery, and the COE model is making that possible for more Pennsylvanians.  We know, though, that there is still more work to be done. The Regional Learning Network gives us the opportunity to learn from COE employees since they are hearing directly from the people we are helping and can help inform our response to the opioid crisis moving forward.”

Prior to the COEs, as few as 48 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries diagnosed with opioid use disorder were receiving treatment. Of those, only 33 percent remained engaged in treatment for more than 30 days. Today, more than 70 percent receive treatment after being diagnosed with an opioid use disorder, and 62 percent remain in treatment for more than 30 days.

The Regional Learning Network is made up of representatives from each COE in a region. The networks meet regularly to determine best practices for addressing the opioid epidemic. Each year, all of the Regional Learning Networks come together for a Statewide Learning Network to share and explore best practices.

COEs provide treatment that is team-based and whole-person focused, with a goal of integrating substance use disorder treatment, behavioral health, and primary care. The centers’ care managers work to keep people with OUD engaged in treatment by coordinating follow-up care and community supports. Their work confronts the most common barriers to treatment and provides vital support to maintain recovery.

COEs work as a hub-and-spoke network, with the designated center serving as the hub. The spokes can include primary care practices, the criminal justice system, emergency departments, social services providers, and other treatment providers and referral sources. With a commitment to educating the community, the COE team works to ensure health care, education, and law enforcement organizations can identify those who need treatment and refer them to the center.

For more information on the state’s efforts to battle the opioid epidemic, visit

New Rural Toolkit for COPD

Rural communities face many challenges to addressing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a condition affecting the lungs that is a major cause of death and disability in the United States.  This new toolkit from the Rural Health Information Hub provides a rural-specific overview of the disease and treatment, resources for implementing effective COPD programs, and models of programs that have proven effective in rural communities.  The toolkit can be accessed here.

New Data: One in Three Children Have Suffered an Adverse Childhood Experience

According to the 2018 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH), one in three children under the age of 18 have experienced stressful or traumatic events that are strongly related to a wide range of health problems throughout a person’s lifetime.  The NSCH is an annual survey conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration collecting information on several of these experiences, including:  having divorced/separated parents or a deceased parent, living with anyone with a drug or alcohol problem or who is mentally ill, having a parent who served time in jail, seeing or hearing parental violence, and witnessing or being the victim of neighborhood violence.  Last year, the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health & Human Services examined adverse childhood experiences from a rural perspective and made recommendations to federal policymakers.   The data can be accessed by clicking here.