Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Free COVID-19 Tests Available for Households

The Biden-Harris Administration and Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) are committed to ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 tests. ASPR is refreshing ordering on for every U.S. household to order additional tests at no charge. Households that ordered this fall can order four more tests, and those that have not ordered this fall can submit two orders for a total of eight tests. Additionally, ASPR will continue to provide over four million free COVID-19 tests per week directly to long-term care facilities, schools, community health centers, and food banks. More information on these efforts and a digital toolkit to share through your social media avenues is available at

Pennsylvania Medical School Celebrates Anniversary and Impact

The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. LECOM is the largest medical school in the country where they train future doctors, pharmacists, dentists, and podiatrists. The college is the core of the nation’s only osteopathic academic health center, and LECOM maintains one of the lowest tuitions among medical schools in the country. According to the college, LECOM’s total impact on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 2022 approached nearly $1.2 billion. Learn more.

Many Americans Can’t Afford Health Coverage

According to a new Commonwealth Fund survey, having insurance doesn’t guarantee access to affordable care. More than half of all working-age Americans reported they struggle with health care costs, and more than one of three are saddled with medical debt. The respondents to the survey represent those insured for a full year and some who spent all or part of the year uninsured. Large shares of insured working-age adults surveyed said it was very or somewhat difficult to afford their health care. Nearly two of five working-age adults reported delaying or skipping needed health care or a prescription drug in the past year because they couldn’t afford it.

Read the full article here: Paying for It: How Health Care Costs and Medical Debt Are Making Americans Sicker and Poorer

340B Program and Medicaid MCOs Update

PA Department of Human Services (DHS) 340B Workgroup members received the following communication from DHS this week regarding the 340B Program and Medicaid MCOs:

“We wanted to provide an update on the Department’s work surrounding the 340B program. We appreciate the time everyone has taken to participate in the workgroup meetings, and individual meetings, as well as sharing information and feedback between meetings.

 “CMS is currently considering a method for identifying 340B purchased drugs within the Medicare Program. As we often mirror Medicare, and to avoid duplicate work, we have decided to hold on to any decision until CMS announces the Medicare method. At that time, we will review the applicability of that process and decide how to proceed.

 “Thank you again for your engagement and feedback.”

Updates to the CMS Portal Requirements for Identity Proofing Published

The Remote Identity Proofing (RIDP) process for CMS Portal accounts will be changing this coming August. Beginning August 15th, 2023, you will be required to provide your personal information for verification, including your social security number which in the past was optional.

What data will be required from users during the Remote Identity Proofing (RIDP) process?

  • Users will need to submit the following personal information for verification:
  • Social security number (required),
  • Full legal name (First name, last name, no nicknames)
  • Current home residence
  • Primary phone number (mobile preferred)
  • Date-of-birth
  • Personal email address

Business information will not be able to be used to identity proof of an individual

Who is impacted by this?

  • New users who are creating a CMS Portal account for the first time and requesting a role (MLMS, Salesforce, etc.)
  • Existing CMS Portal account user requesting a new role

If you have questions about your account or the process, please contact

Pittsburgh’s Duquesne Medical School Receives Pre-Accreditation

Moving toward its fall 2024 launch, Duquesne University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine (COM) has received “pre-accreditation status” from the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA). Because of this status, the university has begun recruiting students to the medical college and has received over 1,000 applications. (Those applications are not available to be downloaded until July.) Duquesne’s COM is committed to educating physicians with an emphasis on primary care and serving the underserved. The move to pre-accreditation status marks an important step, as it demonstrates the college has made significant progress toward its goals, having first earned candidate status in January 2022. Construction of the COM building is now well underway, senior leadership is in place, and the college’s curriculum has met COCA guidelines. Read more.

Here You Can Read About Diabetes Prevalence and Monitoring in Nonmetropolitan and Metropolitan Areas Within a Commercially Insured U.S. Population

 Compared to enrollees in metropolitan areas, enrollees living in rural areas had a 22 percent higher likelihood of having diabetes, even after controlling for factors like age and region.  The Rural and Underserved Health Research Center also examined rates of screening for hemoglobin A1c and found that the odds for testing were 14 percent lower for people living in nonmetropolitan areas.

Read How Value-Based Care Revenue is Driving Primary Care Practice Acquisitions

Big corporations are scooping up primary care practices to get access to vast numbers of patients while positioning themselves for the shift to value-based care, The New York Times reported May 8. The story cites CVS Heath’s $10.6 billion purchase of Oak Street Health, Amazon’s $3.9 billion deal for One Medical, and Optum’s employment of roughly 70,000 physicians. The companies hope to treat the more than 30 million Americans on Medicare Advantage, which the federal government is paying private payers $400 billion a year to administer.