The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (PBDA) has drafted it’s Statewide Digital Equity Plan (Plan), as is required through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Digital Equity Act. The Plan outlines the disparities in digital equity across the commonwealth, existing assets that are in place to bridge the digital equity divide, how the PBDA engaged with a diverse set of stakeholders, industry leaders, and subject matter experts, and how the PBDA will implement this plan across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
This plan would not have been possible without the dedication of the public and our stakeholders, and we look forward to continuing to partner in our mission to provide “Internet for All”.
The draft Plan is now available for review and feedback. Input on the draft Plan is vital to its success and will ensure that the PBDA has listened and incorporated experience and needs from every corner of the state. Public Comment will be open at 12PM EST, Monday November 27, 2023 and will close at 12PM EST on Monday January 8, 2024. The PBDA has identified 3 processes to submit comments, which are outlined on the PBDA Digital Equity Act website.
Lastly, the PBDA will be posting a recording that provides details on how to submit public comment on the draft Statewide Digital Equity Plan, in the coming days. There are also a number of in-person Public Comment sessions being scheduled across the commonwealth, details of each session as well as registration is also available on the PBDA site.
Please note that the PBDA is also finalizing translations of the Executive Summary into 6 other languages, which will be posted and available for review as well.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) outlined the critical actions HHS has taken, and the future work planned, to ensure access to affordable, whole-person primary health care across the country in a recent issue brief (PDF). HHS also expressed its commitment and highlighted its actions to strengthen primary care in a recent article in NAM perspectives. With these publications, HHS aims to share HRSA’s department-wide efforts to strengthen primary care and spark aligned actions from federal partners and external stakeholders.
As announced by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in January 2023, clinicians no longer need a federal waiver to prescribe buprenorphine for treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD). Clinicians are still required to register with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to prescribe controlled medications. On June 27, the DEA began to require that applicants, both new and seasoned, must affirm they have completed a new, one-time, eight-hour training when registering. Exceptions for the new training requirement are practitioners who are board certified in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry, and those who graduated from a medical, dental, physician assistant, or advanced practice nursing school in the United States within five years of June 27, 2023. Watch this 11-minute video that explains the changes. Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) can still apply for a $3,000 payment on behalf of each provider who trained between January 1, 2019, and December 29, 2022 (when Congress eliminated the waiver requirement). Approximately $889,000 in program funding remains available for RHCs and will be paid on a first-come, first-served basis until funds are exhausted.
Send questions to DATA2000WaiverPayments@hrsa.gov.
In 2011, a San Francisco program targeting low-income families put $50 deposits into 600 children’s bank accounts. Now, 12 years later, members of that cohort have an average savings balance of $1,422, which is about 28 times that initial deposit, the Wall Street Journal reports. The program has a dual purpose: to teach smart financial habits and serve as a start to college savings. And so far, it’s been replicated in 39 states due to its success, including Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, ALL children born in 2019 and after to PA residents, including children who are adopted, have a Keystone Scholars account in their name with $100 for postsecondary education expenses. The commonwealth’s universal rollout to approximately 140,000 children each year makes Keystone Scholars the largest such program in the country to date. While the $100 is available to all eligible families, the Treasury advises parents to register their child for the program so that they can claim the funding.
Visit the Keystone Scholars website for more information on the program, including a video on how to activate a child’s account.
Many have been watching and waiting for the impact of CVS Health on the current healthcare system. The company’s strong financial results for the third quarter, $2.3 billion in profit, indicate it could have major impacts. Those impacts include market disruption, diversification, and innovation; ability to adapt; capture the Medicare market with announcement by CVS of Aetna’s 2024 Medicare products; a high CMS star rating; and of course, financial considerations. Being aware of and adapting to the evolving healthcare landscape is essential to remain competitive in the face of disruptive market forces.
Over the years, Amazon has slowly continued to add exclusive offerings for its Prime members, ranging from rapid delivery to access to curated services. Last week the company announced the latest addition to Prime: access to primary care services through its One Medical platform for $9 per month. One Medical provides access to 24/7 virtual care, expedited care for common concerns such as cold symptoms and skin issues, and same- or next-day remote or in-person appointments at One Medical primary care offices. Notably, virtual care users will not have any additional costs, as the entire service is included in the membership fee. Alternatively, patients that prefer office visits can use insurance or pay out of pocket. Though One Medical is normally available to the wider public for $199, Prime Members can now get it for $99 annually, with the option to include additional members for $66 each. Amazon acquired One Medical last year in a deal valued at nearly $3.9 billion, illustrating the significant interest that the retail giant has in the healthcare delivery business and primary care.
HRSA released the fiscal year (FY) 2024 Budget Period Progress Report (BPR) Non-Competing Continuation (5-H80-24-006) for Health Center Program award recipients with a June 1 budget period start date. These award recipients have a BPR submission available for completion in EHBs with a deadline of 5:00 pm on Friday, Dec. 29. Technical assistance materials and deadlines for all FY 2024 BPRs are available on the BPR TA webpage.
CMS will implement two new provider types on Jan. 1: marriage and family therapist and mental health counselor. These provider types must enroll in Medicare to submit claims and get paid for covered items or services. Enroll now. Find out how to become a Medicare provider, and take these steps to enroll:
The effective enrollment date won’t be earlier than Jan. 1. More Information is available at Physician Fee Schedule final rule, Medicare Enrollment for Providers & Suppliers webpage, and FAQs (PDF).
The November 3 court decision regarding how a “patient” should be defined under 340B is continuing to reverberate through the 340B world. Some media reports are hailing it as a “major victory” for covered entities (CEs), and many CEs are re-examining their current policies to determine if/how they can safely fill more prescriptions with 340B drugs. On the other hand, manufacturers are reportedly very concerned about the decision, pointing to a recent study suggesting that it will cause the program to expand by 50 to 100 percent. It is expected that many manufacturers will respond by further tightening restrictions on the program (e.g., contract pharmacy restrictions) and increase their efforts to convince Congress to address the program. These slides will help explain the decision and its impacts on Community Health Centers. If your health center intends to review your 340B patient definition considering the ruling, this template policy and procedure will help you address what types of services qualify an individual as a patient and how recently an individual must be seen at the health center to retain their “patient” status.