Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

CMS Issues COVID-19 FAQs

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has issued Frequently Asked Questions to Ensure Individuals, Issuers and States have Clear Information on Coverage Benefits for COVID-19.  This action is part of the broader, ongoing effort by the White House Coronavirus Task Force to ensure that all Americans – particularly those at high-risk of complications from the COVID-19 virus – have access to the health benefits that can help keep them healthy while helping to contain the spread of this disease.

The COVID-19 FAQs for EHB can be found here:

These FAQs, and earlier CMS actions in response to the COVID-19 virus, are part of the ongoing White House Task Force efforts. To keep up with the important work the Task Force is doing in response to COVID-19 click here For information specific to CMS, please visit the Current Emergencies Website.

Census Bureau: Request for Nominations of Members To Serve on the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations

The Census Bureau is accepting nominations to fill eight vacancies on the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations (NAC). The NAC provides advice to the Director of the Census Bureau on the economic, housing, demographic, socioeconomic, linguistic, technological, methodological, geographic, behavioral, and operational variables affecting the cost, accuracy, and implementation of Census Bureau programs and surveys, including the decennial census. The committee should have representatives with a variety of experience and from varied backgrounds in order to have balanced representation in terms of geography, age, sex, race, ethnicity, technical expertise, community involvement, and knowledge of census programs. Some members may serve as representatives for broad populations groups, including hard-to-count populations and racial and ethnic populations, among others. Nominations are due by August 1, 2020.

Public Comments Accepted on the Draft 2021 CMS QRDA I Implementation Guide (IG) and Schematron for Hospital Quality Reporting (HQR)

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is requesting public comments on their draft of the CMS Quality Reporting Document Architecture (QRDA) Category I Implementation Guide and Schematron for Hospital Quality Reporting. The guidelines outline requirements for eligible hospitals and Critical Access Hospitals to report quality measures for the 2021 calendar reporting year. Comments are due by April 1, 2020.

Rural Hospital Guide to Improving Care Management

The Technical Assistance and Services Center (TASC), a program of the National Rural Health Resource Center (The Center), is pleased to share the Rural Hospital Guide to Improving Care Management.

The Rural Hospital Guide to Improving Care Management is a result of the 2019 Rural Care Coordination and Population Health Management Summit, funded by FORHP. The guide provides rural hospital executive and management teams with generally accepted best practice concepts related to care management. Rural hospitals can use the guide to determine how to most effectively staff care management and identify opportunities to improve clinical and financial outcomes.

State rural health partners may also benefit from this guide, as it assists them in asking the right questions when meeting with hospital leadership. The guide also offers opportunities to improve performance within the hospital setting through the transition from traditional fee-for-service reimbursement to a value-based, population-health-focused reimbursement environment.

The 2019 Rural Care Coordination and Population Health Management Summit Report will assist rural hospitals, clinics, and network leaders in considering key actions they can undertake to incorporate community care coordination planning as a strategy to help position their organization for population health.

Visit the TASC resource library to gain access to the Rural Hospital Guide to Improving Care Management and learn more about the Rural Hospital Care Coordination and Population Health Management Summit Report. You may also view the accompanying video: Population Health for Rural Hospitals: What the experts are saying, featuring Summit panelists.

Access the guide and summit report here.

HHS Finalizes Interoperability Rules

On March 9, 2020, the U.S. Department of Human Services (HHS) finalized two transformative rules that will give patients unprecedented safe, secure access to their health data. Interoperability has been pursued by multiple administrations and numerous laws, and today, these rules finally deliver on giving patients true access to their healthcare data to make informed healthcare decisions and better manage their care. Putting patients in charge of their health records is a key piece of giving patients more control in healthcare, and patient control is at the center of the Trump administration’s work toward a value-based healthcare system.

The two rules, issued by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), implement interoperability and patient access provisions of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) and support President Trump’s MyHealthEData initiative. MyHealthEData is designed to empower patients around a common aim – giving every American access to their medical information so they can make better healthcare decisions.

To read the HHS press release, please visit:

For more information on the ONC final rule, please visit:

For more information on the CMS final rule, please visit:

To view the CMS final rule, please visit:

To view the ONC final rule, please visit:

Fighting for Health Care: Rural America Struggles with Loss of Doctors, Clinics

U.S. Today, March 6, 2020

FAIRFIELD, Washington — Drive 20 minutes south of Spokane and pine trees give way to rolling hills, which in fall are golden with remnants of the wheat harvest and in winter dusted with snow. This part of eastern Washington state is the beginning of the Palouse region. Its small farm towns once thrived but now struggle to offer essential services such as health care.

For decades in Fairfield, residents received care from a doctor in a community clinic on Main Street. Alongside a post office, community center (which doubles as Town Hall), drug store, bank and library, a stucco building where the health clinic used to be sits vacant.

Longtime Fairfield residents recall giving birth to their children at the clinic and visiting for regular checkups. But in 2019, after Kaiser Permanente acquired the health care group that operated the clinic, it closed and the doctor moved to Spokane, a 30-minute drive north.  The drive is reasonable for some Fairfield residents, but it’s not feasible for others. As the Spokane-based Spokesman-Review reported, the majority of residents at Palouse Country Assisted Living, one of Fairfield’s largest employers, cannot drive.

Nationally, more than one in five people over age 65 live in rural areas, Census data show, and in Washington state, 20 percent of people 65 and older live in rural communities.

Read more.

Pennsylvania Governor’s Administration Hosts Roundtable to Boost PASS Program Connecting Hungry Families with Farmers’ Excess Food 

On March 5, 2020, Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller led a roundtable discussion of PASS, the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System, which provides farmers funding to get food that would otherwise go to waste to vulnerable families who need it most. Governor Wolf requested a $1 million funding increase for the program in his 2020-’21 budget proposal.

Lancaster-based Hess Brother’s Fruit Company, which has donated more than 373,000 pounds of fresh fruit to the program, hosted the discussion among contributing growers as well as charitable food organizations and processors who are program partners.

“Agriculture is the antidote to hunger,” Secretary Redding said. “Pennsylvania farmers produce some of the best and most plentiful food in the world, but the extra food they produce isn’t always where hungry families are. PASS gets that food where it is needed, while supporting the generosity of farmers like the Hess family.”

Since the PASS program was first funded in April 2016, more than 11.4 million pounds of food has been distributed to all 67 counties in the state through partners that are part of the Feeding Pennsylvania and Hunger-Free Pennsylvania networks of food banks. Sixty different Pennsylvania-produced foods have been sourced from 134 farmers, processors, and growers across the state. The foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, cheese and other items that are often difficult for food pantries to obtain.

According to the USDA, in 2017, more than 1.53 million Pennsylvanians – that’s one in every eight people – don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. The roundtable sought to gather input from program partners, including the charitable food organizations facing challenges stemming from new federal rules limiting who can participate in programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as SNAP, helps more than 1.7 million Pennsylvanians afford and access healthy, nutritious food every day,” said DHS Secretary Miller. “When I visit local food banks and meet SNAP recipients, I hear how people stretch their SNAP dollars as far as possible before they need to turn to other government assistance programs and local food networks to help get to the end of the month. Through partnerships like PASS, we are able to bridge the growing hunger gaps and expand access to fresh, healthy foods to citizens across Pennsylvania.”

Find out more about the Wolf Administration’s strategy to end hunger in Pennsylvania at For more on the PASS program, including a map of distributors, visit

Photos, video and audio for news stories will be available on

MEDIA CONTACT: Shannon Powers, Agriculture  – 717.783.2628

Community Health Workers: Evidence of Their Effectiveness

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the National Association of Community Health Workers recently published a summary of the research examining community health workers over the past fifty years. This research has focused on assessing their effectiveness in improving health outcomes, reducing healthcare costs, and bridging the gap in health disparities. This work is supported through HRSA’s cooperative agreement with the National Organizations of State and Local Officials.

Read the summary (PDF – 281 KB).